By CRAIG MILLAR
CARY—As snow and ice become more likely in the next three to five days, leaders in the Wake County Public School System are doubling down on their inclement weather policies, which in the last few years have famously included waiting until buses were on the road to cancel school for the day, and cancelling school for the following day once all the major roads were ice-free.
“The more insane we drive the moms, the more effective we are. This lets us know the parents are engaged, that they are stakeholders in their children’s future,” said Board member Bill Fletcher.
“My benchmark is 5,000 hate emails and around 10,000 Facebook snarks on ice and snow days,” said Board Vice Chair Christine Kushner. “I’m pretty confident we’ll hit that every day this week.”
She continued, “Our [weather decision] computer system cost $5.1 billion in 2013, and we’re still using it. It never fails.” Designed by CGI Federal, the same company that designed the ObamaCare website, the program can hold 20 terrabytes of data that are housed on servers in a mountain near Boone, NC.
The decision-making algorithms are secret, but Board member Keith Sutton confirmed that they rely on a lottery-style series of plastic balls that are blown randomly around in a tube, and then read by a $143M scanner.
“If the ball says ‘Go,’ the kids have school,” he said. “If we get the ‘Stay at home’ ball, that’s what we do. The fun days are when the wildcard ball comes up. Then we all take shots of tequila and make an announcement whenever we wake up.” He paused. “Good times,” he said.
Del Burns, former superintendent of the Wake County school system, said he was impressed.
“These kids have come a long way,” he said in a phone interview from Orange County. “In my day, we made decisions based on Greg [Fishel]’s predictions. And usually with enough time for everyone to make plans. Stupid in hindsight, I know. We never knew if we were being effective or not, because no one ever called the office in a screaming fit of rage.”