- The Washington Times - Friday, December 6, 2002

Some parents were furious yesterday with the District's decision to close schools at 8 a.m. after many students had sloshed through icy and snow-covered streets to reach their classrooms.

"I thought it was a cruddy call and very poor judgment on the part of Superintendent Paul Vance," said Charles Jones, whose children attend D.C. charter schools. "By 6 a.m., a decision should have been made. Imagine all the children on buses and subways."

District officials made the decision much later than their counterparts in neighboring school jurisdictions. Montgomery County closed schools Wednesday night while Prince George's County and Virginia administrators made the decision as early as 5 a.m. yesterday.

"I'm a little intrigued by why it takes D.C. public schools so long to let parents know schools will be closed," said parent Lillian Perdomo. "There are specific issues. Parents must get ready for work and should not be told at the last minute. When other school jurisdictions close, we need to close, especially considering many of our teachers do not live in the District."

Mrs. Perdomo and her husband agreed to keep their three children home yesterday before hearing the announcement.

Though she understood that officials wanted students in the schools where they could be safe and get a hot meal, Mrs. Perdomo said the District needs a plan for children who may have no place to go.

"I appreciate school officials want to keep the schools open," she said. "But if they are unsure, they should say: 'If you bring your children to school, you may have to come back and pick them up.'"

Mr. Vance acknowledged making the wrong decision, despite knowing the weather forecast called for up to 9 inches of snow.

Louis Erste, the chief operating officer for D.C. public schools, said parents would be alerted much earlier about today's closings.

"Our primary goal is to provide a day of instruction for the students and, clearly, we want to wait as long as we can to cancel school," he said. "At 4 a.m., we considered all of the information, and it appeared that the streets were safe for students, parents and our faculty."

However, he said the snow began falling much faster by 7:30 a.m., and state police urged people to stay home.

"And when schools close in the suburbs, children can go out and play in the parks," Mr. Erste said. "But in the city, it is not quite as conducive. The schools provide a safe haven for them."

Carlos Curtis said he kept his children home from Eastern Senior High School in Northeast and the New School for Enterprise and Development Public Charter School because D.C. officials sometimes lack good judgment.

"I'm not surprised by this situation," he said. "Mr. Vance is not organized, he should have closed the schools. This is all political. As long as Anthony Williams is in office, we're all in trouble."

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