Custodians at Henderson Elementary School shoveling snow during the Code Red school closure on January 19, 2024

Dear PWCS Families, Employees, and Community,

As we progress through the winter months, it is a busy time of year as our middle and high school students begin meeting with school counselors to select future courses and update their Academic and Career Plan. The newly redesigned PWCS High School Course Catalog for the 2024-25 school year is now available for students and families to support course selection for next school year.

The course catalog is a resource provided to support the design of each student’s academic schedule to prepare them for launching their thriving future. Families will find information about specialty programs, career pathways, and postsecondary education options in addition to descriptions of all the courses offered in PWCS high schools. Translations are available in several languages to ensure ease of use for all families. If you have questions about the PWCS High School Course Catalog, please contact your student’s school counselor.

Thank you to our outstanding bus drivers, and facilities, custodial, and food service staff for the phenomenal work this week during our first significant weather events of the season. I appreciate your dedication to our schools demonstrated through the clearing of our parking lots and sidewalks, delivering our students safely to school, and serving hot meals to our students and staff.

Weather is obviously top of mind, and as the Superintendent, I deeply understand my responsibility for making decisions that impact the well-being and education of every student. The decision to close the school division is a challenging and consequential one that is not based on personal preference or done in isolation. It is done with extreme thought and collaboration with multiple expert advisors from facilities and Virginia Department of Transportation, and local and national meteorologists, who work diligently to analyze data over multiple days leading up to a single weather event. We strive to communicate our decisions as early as possible to allow families and staff to plan accordingly.

While our primary concern is always the safety of our students, staff, and faculty, I also consider the basic student needs our schools provide each day. Our schools, teachers, and staff provide critical support, resources, and care for our children. Approximately 42% of our students are identified as economically disadvantaged, and many more rely on the resources provided by our schools. When our schools are closed, many students’ basic needs go unmet. Closing school also disrupts the educational progress of our students and the schedules of our families, impacting childcare and work arrangements.

When inclement weather data justifies a full closure such as this past Tuesday and Friday, we will utilize Code Red. However, not every weather scenario warrants school closure. When there is a need to modify school schedules, a range of options are considered, which can be found on the PWCS website.

We recently added the Code Orange weather option, which we plan to use only in emergency situations after we have had extended periods of learning loss or an extended closure. These virtual learning days will allow us to continue to provide critical instruction during a weather emergency after there has been multiple days of closure.

On school days, I fundamentally believe that our students are best served in-person in classrooms, and the goal is to keep students in school. While our decisions may not always be the most popular, we try to make decisions that meet the critical needs of all students and families, prioritize safety, and uphold our deep commitment to education as our core business. I appreciate your patience and understanding.

Dr. McDade signature
LaTanya D. McDade, Ed.D.
Prince William County Public Schools