Winter Operation Information

  • Winter weather impacting school schedules may occur soon and to ensure the safety of our students, the Maintenance, Facilities, Operations, and Transportation Department of the Garrett County Public School System would like to remind parents and the community of some important information for the winter phase of operations.

    Collectively, school buses travel 5500 miles daily while transporting students to and from school. This does not include the daily field trips and evening activities that require school bus services. School officials agree that students are better served by being in school. However, when it comes to winter weather, the decision to close or delay the opening of schools, or shift to a virtual learning format, must focus on keeping children and staff safe.

    How are decisions made to change the school system schedule due to inclement weather?
    School officials monitor weather forecasts from multiple weather sources all winter long. Monitoring on the anticipated day of the event begins many hours, sometimes even days, before the event’s predicted time. 

    GCPS uses a series of local weather monitoring resources, which include multiple WeatherBug stations systematically located around the county and communicating directly with staff at the National Weather Service’s Baltimore Office to obtain vital, real-time, and personalized weather information specific to Garrett County.

    The National Weather Service summarizes prediction challenges in Garrett County as follows:
    “Garrett County experiences its fair share of winter weather due to the higher elevation of the county when compared to adjacent areas. This, in combination with predominant west-northwest winds, enhances snowfall amounts. When winds are northwest, moisture from Lake Erie is tapped and works with the elevation increase from southwestern PA into western MD, producing additional significant accumulations. Due to snow showers extending only half or three-quarters as high into the atmosphere as summertime thunderstorms, Doppler Radar can have difficulty picking up snow showers on the radar. Therefore, it is common to see nothing on the radar in the wintertime, but moderate to heavy snow is occurring. When radar does not show anything across western Maryland, meteorologists must rely on a less sparse data source to verify what is happening. This is the primary challenge faced by meteorologists during the winter season.”

    The Garrett County School System maintenance, operations, facilities, and transportation department begins road condition evaluations as early as 3:00 am. Monitoring continues as conditions warrant and includes gathering input on road conditions from multiple sources and agencies throughout the county.

    What types of school day adjustments are possible?

    Entire School District or Regional Delayed Openings:
    Delayed openings are designed to allow for conditions to improve, additional road condition evaluations, and weather updates. Delayed openings can result in a 2- or 3-hour delay.

    Entire School District, Regional, or Specific School Closures:
    The entire Garrett County Public School District may close or a regional closure specific to either the Northern Garrett or Southern Garrett Regions may occur. In the case of a regional closure, students in the closed region will be given excused absences and will not require a note from a parent or guardian for the day their school was closed due to weather.

    Please note: On occasion, a closure may be specific to a particular school within a region. In this instance, if an elementary school closes due to adverse weather conditions, students attending the middle and high school from the elementary school’s region will not be transported by school bus. Again, students in the closed school and the middle and high school students from the elementary region will have an excused absence.

    Is virtual learning available on inclement weather days?

    Each year, the GCPS Virtual Learning Plan for inclement weather must be reviewed by the GCPS Superintendent, the GC Board of Education, and the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). If the plan is approved by all entities, it will be posted on the front page of the website for all users to access.

    GCPS presented the GCPS Virtual Learning Plan for the 2023-24 school year at the September 2023 Board of Education Meeting. After the public review/comment period, the Board took action on the proposed plan, approving it at the October 2023 Board Meeting. It was then submitted to and approved by MSDE. GCPS may implement up to eight (8) virtual days in lieu of closing school due to inclement weather. 

    **Please note that a significant update regarding virtual learning calls has been implemented for the 2023-24 school year. Students may have their digital devices sent home in preparation for virtual instruction on the following day(s). However, the call for virtual instruction may or may not be made. If a move to virtual instruction is implemented, the announcement will be sent out following standard GCPS protocol for a change in operating status. If no call is made, students will return to school with their digital devices under a normal operating schedule the next school day. **

    2023-24 Virtual Learning Instruction Plan for Staff

    Can an announced weather-related adjustment to the school day change later in the morning?
    Yes, it is possible that an initially announced 2- or 3-hour delay may change to a closure as conditions warrant. As the citizens of the county are well aware, weather conditions change rapidly in Garrett County, and not all regions experience the same weather challenges at any given time. For these reasons, it is recommended that parents, caregivers, staff, and students continue to monitor media outlets throughout the morning.

    When must a decision be made?
    The decision to adjust the school day schedule must be made no later than 6:00 a.m. Adjustments to an initial delayed opening announcement may be made as weather conditions change. For instance, an initial call for a 2- or 3-hour delay may be changed to a school closure. GCPS will make every effort to make this announcement as soon as possible. Early-out decisions due to adverse weather are typically made 2-hours in advance of the planned early dismissal time.

    What do the Codes mean?
    A series of codes will be announced to alert staff of an adjustment to their work hours. The code system relates only to employees and has no impact on the schedule for students.

    How are decisions communicated to the public?
    Public announcements are made immediately on local radio stations, the district website, School Messenger, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. School community members who have signed up for School Messenger notifications are also alerted.  If you are a community or staff member who is not already receiving these alerts and desire to, please visit the
    Public Relations page on our website and look for the Staff and Community School Messenger Setup tab.

    As always, we appreciate the public’s understanding as we analyze all available weather information and additional data, to ensure that schedule changes are made based on student and staff safety.

Inclement Weather Calls

  • Infographic highlighting a Code Red status as detailed in the text.

    Code Red: All schools and administrative offices are closed. All employees, including essentials, do not report to work.

    Infographic highlighting Code Blue as detailed in the text.

    Code Blue: Only designated essential employees will report to work.

    Infographic highlighting a Code Orange status as detailed in the text.

    Code Orange: Essential employees report on time. Non-essential employees report two (2) hours late.

    Infographic highlighting a Delayed Opening status as detailed in the text.

    Delayed Opening: All schools open two (2)- or three (3)- hours late. Administrative offices open on time.

    Infographic highlighting a Early Dismissal status as detailed in the text.

    Early Dismissal: All schools close two (2)- or three (3)-hours early. Administrative offices close at 3:00 p.m.

    Infographic highlighting a Virtual Learning status as detailed in the text.

    Virtual Learning Day: No in-person instruction will occur. The day will be announced as a Synchronous (live instruction) or Asynchronous (no live instruction) Virtual Learning Day.

    Infographic highlighting a normal operation status as detailed in the text.

    No Change: No changes are being made to the normal operating schedules.

    For more detailed information about each call, what the announcement may look like, and reporting details, please view the Inclement Weather Calls Operational Guidelines document.