Winter Operations Information for the 2022-2023 School Year

 Infographic highlighting details of the Winter Operations Information for the 22-23 school year.


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 as we enter the winter phase of operations in the 2022-2023 school year.

Collectively, school buses travel 5,500 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 is the decision 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 a difficult time 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 have to 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 schedule.

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 do 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?

Yes, GCPS has a Virtual Learning Plan that may be implemented in lieu of a school closure.  The plan was approved by the GCBOE during the November 2022 monthly Board meeting and then approved by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE).  In accordance with MSDE guidelines, GCPS may use up to eight (8) virtual days, of which no more than three (3) may be used as an asynchronous day (no live instruction).  Whether a day is synchronous (live instruction) or asynchronous (no live instruction), these days will be announced with as much advanced notice as possible.  The plan is available in full detail on the homepage of our website.

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 am. Adjustments to an initial delayed opening announcement may be made as weather conditions change. For instance, an initial call of 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. A list of the codes is available on the Transportation page of the GCPS website. 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 that does not already receive these alerts and desire to, please visit the
Public Relations page of 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.