Mr. Smith: Let Our Kids Play! - Change BCPS Inclement Weather Policy
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Dear Mr. Smith, Mr. Francois, and Ms. Burnopp,
[Update: Mon Jan 30th 5:33pm. BCPS again has canceled basketball activities - for what reason?]
As president of the Greater Pikesville Recreation Council’s youth basketball program, I am writing on behalf of the more than 40 rec councils that are part of Baltimore County Recreation and Parks. Our vibrant program, which alone serves more than 500 boys and girls ages between the ages of 5 and 17, is just one of many around the beltway. We have over 100 volunteer coaches who practice with their teams once or twice a week, and games are played on weekends in six different county public school gyms.
Because our activities take place in county schools, we rely on BCPS to be up and running in order for our kids to play. Unfortunately, it seems increasingly common for schools to shut down at the slightest suggestion of inclement conditions. So far this season, five days worth of practices and games have been canceled due to weather (one Thursday, three Saturdays, and a Sunday). This happened frequently last season as well, forcing teams to lose more than 100 games in our rec council alone. Often, it seems as if Baltimore is one of the only Counties that chooses to close its facilities, leaving us wondering about the decision-making criteria. Of the five closings so far this season, four of them occurred on days when the weather ended up being a non-event, and the roads were safe and navigable.
When BCPS preemptively shuts down schools for the weekend and games are lost, the impact is great. Countywide, tens of thousands of children and their families stay at home. Game officials aren’t paid. Local eateries lose business. In addition, leagues are forced to renegotiate schedules with the schools, which is already a laborious and difficult process. It’s one thing if the forecast calls for more than several inches of snow or a hundred percent chance of wintry mix. It’s quite another when the schools shut down for barely more than the hint of foul weather, which increasingly seems to be the case. When schools close on a Friday, the entire weekend’s worth of games get wiped from the schedule, regardless of how much snow remains. Last season, we experienced perfectly sunny, snow-free, weekend days when our games were canceled because of a Friday “weather event.”
Each and every time we lose games due to a slightly messy forecast that never comes to fruition, we are bombarded with angry e-mails from upset families, wondering how and why the decision to close schools is made. We have heard from many stakeholders who are considering switching to AAU leagues, or to one of the numerous other for-profit leagues in the greater Baltimore area that use private gym space and are therefore able to continue playing when it snows (or even threatens to snow). Just as concerning, if not more, we have also heard from some of our most committed and invested volunteers who are considering stepping down because it’s simply not worth their time and energy. Said one longtime rec volunteer: “I am closer than ever to quitting all this volunteer work because of the anger and frustration I feel over these decisions.”
We appreciate your attention to this matter and are hoping to affect change with respect to the weather closure policy. Specifically:
- Whatever benchmarks are used for closing BCPS facilities in the currently overzealous policy (i.e. – percent chance of weather, the amount of accumulation, etc.), we would like those numbers to be more quantifiable and liberal.
- When the forecast calls for the possibility of inclement weather, we would like the decisions to be made not well in advance, but rather on the day of the scheduled activity, as forecasts have a tendency to change. In today’s technological era, with instant messaging alerts such as RainedOut.com, it is exceedingly easy to communicate to the masses at a moment’s notice. As such, the instinct to preemptively cancel so far in advance seems entirely unnecessary.
Again, thank you for your time and consideration. We look forward to meeting with you in person to further discuss the County’s cancellation policies.
President, Greater Pikesville Recreation Council Basketball
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