Emergency / Weather Closings
HCPSS 2020-2021 Inclement Weather Protocols
For the 2020-2021 school year, while in virtual, small groups or hybrid instructional models, HCPSS may transition to fully virtual instruction during inclement weather days. FULL DETAILS
School Emergency Closing Information Sources
In times of emergencies/school closings, information will be shared with the community through the following:
- HCPSS status website
- Our school system homepage
- HCPSS News email and text message alerts. Parents are automatically signed up for email alerts, and only once need to opt in for text messaging. All subscription information comes directly from the HCPSS Connect system. However, community members who do not have children in the school system have to sign up manually.
- HCPSS Information Hotline – 410-313-6666
- Twitter – @hcpss
- Facebook – Howard County Public School System
Please note: Weekend And Holiday Weather Closures, School Facilities/Field Closings Hotline – 410-313-6827
HCPSS does not use schools-out.com or e-schoolnews.com for any notifications.
How to Receive Text Messages
To comply with wireless carrier requirements, parents/guardians and community members must opt into receiving HCPSS text message alerts. Standard data fees and text messaging rates may apply based on your mobile plan. If you are unsure if you have already opted in, text the word “YES” to 67587 from the cell phone number on file in HCPSS Connect.
For community members without students in the school system, text the word “YES” to 67587 from the cell phone number that you signed up with.
Please contact your child’s school if you have questions regarding your information in HCPSS Connect.
Emergency and Weather-Related School Closing Details
If it is necessary for the superintendent to close or delay the start of schools due to inclement weather or other emergencies, parents may obtain information from the sources listed above.
If schools are closed, or closed early due to weather conditions, all after-school and evening activities, both school and non-school, scheduled in school facilities are canceled.
If schools are closed, or closed early due to weather conditions, all evening activities in schools, both school-sponsored and community-sponsored, are canceled. This includes high school athletic practices and games. All aftercare programs, sponsored by the Columbia Association and the Department of Recreation & Parks in Howard County public schools, are canceled.
On weekends and holidays, if the Howard County Snow Emergency Plan is in effect by 7 a.m., activities already in progress may be completed but any activity scheduled to begin after that time is canceled.
Please do not call your child’s school or the central office during emergencies or adverse weather conditions, to keep phone lines remain free for urgent calls.
Early Dismissals For Inclement Weather
If inclement weather conditions develop during the school day, the Director of Transportation follows the procedures used to determine late openings or school closures. Generally, a decision to close schools early is made no later than 10:30 a.m. In deciding whether or not to close schools early, the Superintendent will consult with the Director of Transportation, the Deputy Superintendent, the Director of Operations, the Community Services Specialist, the Coordinator of Athletics, the Director of Public Relations, and other staff members as appropriate.
School Sponsored and Community Sponsored After-School and Evening Activities
- If schools are dismissed early for inclement weather, all after-school and evening activities in schools—both school sponsored and community sponsored—are cancelled.
High School Athletics
- If schools are dismissed early due to inclement weather, all high school athletic practices and games are cancelled.
Delayed Dismissals for Unexpected Weather Events
If an unexpected severe weather event develops during the school day, schools and offices will practice Shelter in Place protocols. Schools announce the weather situation, doors and windows are shut, all staff and students are accounted for and remain inside the building until the weather threat is reduced.
During storms, bus drivers have instructions to take directions from school administrators, and when necessary, cease discharging students and immediately seek appropriate shelter, which are sturdy buildings such as schools, fire stations and office buildings.
If severe weather is approaching, schools will not dismiss walkers from school until the weather subsides. However, a quick moving weather system may occur as your child is walking home. If your student walks to school, parents are encouraged to walk the route with them to identify locations where they may seek shelter if a sudden weather event happens.
We request that you do not call your child’s school or the central office as it is important to keep phone lines free for emergency calls. Systemwide announcements will be made through the school system homepage, HCPSS News email and text messages, Twitter and Facebook, and when necessary, through each school’s communications channels.
Weekend And Holiday Weather Closures
School Facilities/Field Closings Hotline – 410-313-6827
School-Sponsored Events on Weekends and Holidays
- If a snow emergency plan is in effect at 7 a.m. on Saturday or on a day when schools are closed for students, all high school athletic games and practices and other school-sponsored events scheduled for Howard County public schools are canceled.
- If a snow emergency plan goes into effect after the start of the game, practice, or event, the activity may be completed.
- If a snow emergency plan goes into effect before the start of the practice, game, or event, the activity must be canceled.
- If a team or student group is involved in an event outside of Howard County, they may depart for the event after the emergency plan is lifted in Howard County.
- When a team is on an overnight trip, they may compete unless travel is involved and a snow emergency plan is in effect at the location of the event. Special situations and exceptions are handled by the Coordinator of Athletics.
- When a student group, other than an athletic team, is on an overnight trip, they may continue their activity unless travel is involved and a snow emergency plan is in effect at the location of the event. Special situations and exceptions are handled by the school principal in consultation with the appropriate Administrative Director.
Community Use of Buildings or Fields on Weekends or Holidays
To check on snow emergencies in your area, visit Snow Emergency Information in Maryland
- If a snow emergency plan for Howard County is in effect at 7 a.m. on either Saturday, Sunday, or on a day when schools are closed for students, all community programs and activities scheduled to take place in school facilities are canceled. If a snow emergency is lifted after 7 a.m. that same day, all activities remain canceled for the remainder of the day.
- If a snow emergency goes into effect after 7 a.m., all activities thereafter are canceled for the remainder of the day.
- If a snow emergency goes into effect while any programs or activities are already in progress, those programs and activities may be completed. Any programs/activities that start after the snow emergency has gone into effect, are canceled for the remainder of the day.
The Decision Process – Closing Schools For Inclement Weather
If the possibility of inclement weather exists or is forecast, the director of Pupil Transportation begins at 2:45 a.m. to review weather temperatures across the county and review national weather service forecasts via the Internet and AccuWeather Winter Storm Service.
At approximately 3:00 a.m., the director of Pupil Transportation and supervisors conduct on-road observations of actual road and weather conditions across the county. State and county roads departments are contacted to determine road status, plans-of-actions and time frames for treating road surfaces. Transportation staff contacts officials in surrounding school districts for information about current conditions in their counties and predicted road and weather conditions.
At 4:30 a.m., the director arrives at the HCPSS transportation office, reviews updated information and contacts the Howard County and State Police Departments for their assessment of road conditions to determine if the Snow Emergency Plan is or will be in effect. Transportation officials in other districts are contacted again for updated information. Personnel in the school system’s Grounds Department are contacted about the status of school driveways and parking lots and to discuss their plan of action and time frames.
One last assessment of road and weather conditions is made at 4:30 a.m. and recommendations are discussed. At 4:45 a.m., all of the above information is reviewed and a recommendation is formulated based on the worst actual and/or predicted road/weather conditions within any one of five areas in the county, with consideration given to what county road crews say they can accomplish by 6 a.m. The Superintendent/designee is contacted at 4:45 a.m., provided an overview of the above information and given staff recommendations. The decision is made to open on time, open two hours late, or close for the day.
If the decision is to open schools two hours late, all of the above steps are repeated beginning at 5:30 a.m. By 7:30 a.m. the original decision to open two hours late may either be affirmed or changed to close. After 7:30 a.m., it is virtually impossible to change or modify the decision because of the logistics associated with opening a school system for daily operations.
If conditions change, the decision to open schools on time or two-hours late may need to be reconsidered. If schools are scheduled to open on time, the buses begin picking up students by 6 a.m. If schools are scheduled to open two hours late, buses begin picking up students at 8 a.m. These times will be taken into consideration when reevaluation of start times is necessary.
High School Athletics, School-Sponsored, and Community-Sponsored Evening Activities
- If schools are closed for the day, all after-school and evening activities in schools—both school-sponsored and community-sponsored—are cancelled. This includes all Howard County high school athletic games and practices.
Advance preparation and planning can minimize the risks inherent in any emergency situation. The HCPSS has worked closely with the Howard County Police Department, Howard County Fire and Rescue, and the Community Emergency Response Network (CERN) to develop coordinated emergency response procedures. More information is on our School Safety & Security webpage.