School sidewalks will be priority in snow removal


Janette Henry-Atkinson

Snow-covered sidewalks made it difficult for students to walk to school during last winter’s severe weather.

By Thomas Atkinson, Public Relations Manager

Sophomore Jacob Friedman remembers having to walk to school on icy, uncleared sidewalks with start of winter just around the corner.

“Many people didn’t shovel the sidewalks, including the school,” Freidman said. “All of the unshoveled snow on the sidewalks turned to ice the next day making it even harder to walk to school.”

MCPS will implement a new snow removal policy on sidewalks this winter that fall on school grounds to make safer travel for students that have to walk.

This new legislation will require sidewalks on school grounds to be fully cleared after snow storms, allowing more immediate usage.

“MCPS plans for snow every year, coordinating internally as well as with local jurisdictions and contractors,” said Lynne Zarate, Director of MCPS Division of Maintenance.  “We have a preplanned matrix and documented processes for response. Before each storm, a customized action plan is developed that discusses weather conditions, forecasts, and outlines an action plan.”

The plan aims to make people’s lives easier during the winter months and will help those in need of assistance.

According to a February 2014 memo, written by Montgomery County councilman Hans Riemer on the Montgomery Community Media website, the new plan will include a “digital map of the county” and a “major storm event communications plan”.

This plan however will have little influence on the current CHS snow removal practices.

“It’s always been a thing that the parking lots and sidewalks have to be cleared after any storm,” Principal Joan Benz said.  “Often times if there’s no school for students and teachers, I’m still here, so one of the first things that happens is that the plows come in and they clear the parking lots and then our building service people are out clearing the sidewalks.”

With a harsh winter forecasted to hit MCPS later this year, the policy will be implemented as soon as possible to ensure that the plan works.

“We will be doing a test run of our communications systems next week,” Zarate said. “Throughout this month, we are also inspecting and performing preventive maintenance on our snow removal equipment and making necessary repairs so that all is operational and ready to go for the first storm.”

Despite all of the plan components, more severe snow storms will slow sidewalks cleaning and make it harder for those in charge of cleaning to do their jobs.

“We do the best we can with our available resources,” Zarate said.  “In more severe storms, there may be a delay in securing contractor support because they are still assisting with clearing roads and highways.”