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Watauga County Schools Winter Weather Procedures 2023

Last Updated on December 4, 2023 3:55 pm

It is officially winter in the High Country, and Watauga County Schools would like to remind parents and families about how the district makes and communicates decisions regarding changes to school schedules as a result of inclement weather.

It is important for parents/guardians to update and ensure their contact information with their school’s front office is correct. The district will make closing, cancellation, delay, and emergency announcements using that information.

Watauga County Schools Superintendent Dr. Leslie Alexander said, “Weather can be complicated in Watauga County due to our buses and student drivers traveling over roads ranging from around 1,900 feet of elevation to over 5,500 feet.  This means that while it could snow in one area of the county, roads may be completely clear in other areas.  We will make the best decisions that we can so that our buses can travel to and from school safely, given the current information we have”.

Calling for an inclement weather day is the responsibility of the school system, but getting all students to school safely ends up being a team effort.  “We recognize the importance of partnering with parents regarding their particular situations, especially involving car riders and student drivers,” she added. “If parents feel it is unsafe to transport their child to school or allow their child to drive to school, ultimately, we respect their decision to travel when roads in their area improve.”

When winter weather events occur overnight, the process for making decisions about the school schedule kicks off at 3 a.m. when Transportation Director Janet Tanner gathers updates on current road and weather conditions from local law enforcement, the N.C. Department of Transportation, and the National Weather Service. Tanner also checks the latest weather forecasts and weather radar. 

By 3:30 a.m., a road check team, including members of the central office and the WCS transportation and maintenance departments, will begin driving assigned routes to check road conditions throughout Watauga County. During a timeframe of 60-90 minutes, members of the road check team complete their routes and report the conditions in their areas. The final decision about school schedules and bus routes is made by the superintendent based on road checks, information from NCDOT, local law enforcement, and the latest weather forecasts.

“I am extremely grateful for the members of our road-check team,” Alexander said. “They get up at 3:00 a.m., knowing that the information they provide is critical for making the best decisions. They are an extremely dedicated team.”

If a decision is made that roads are unsafe for travel, an announcement will be made to convert the day into a remote learning day, an optional teacher workday, or an annual leave day. WCS may use up to 15 days for remote learning.  

Alexander said, “The option of remote learning days has been available since the COVID-19 pandemic. These days allow the district an opportunity to use up to 15 days of remote instruction, which goes a long way in helping us to avoid a change in the school calendar or extending the school year.”

That decision is typically made before the first school bus departs on its route at 5:25 a.m. and is promptly announced in seven different ways: a statement at the top of all pages of school websites at; via local radio and TV stations; by automated phone messages, email, and text messages; via X (formerly Twitter) at @WataugaSchools; and through a recorded snow line message at (828) 264-0200. 

If you have questions about the limited bus routes for your school, you can access more information at You may also contact the WCS Transportation Department at (828) 264-6391. 

Limited school bus routes are used when road conditions are acceptable on more heavily traveled roads but not all roads. The usual limited route option is named “Limited Routes A.” 

A more restrictive limited route option, consisting mostly of numbered U.S. and state highways, is called “Limited Routes B.” Details of both limited route options are available on each school website, and printed copies are available by request from a school office. 

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