Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.

In a move to reduce snow days, Prince William County superintendent announces 'Code Orange'

  • Updated
  • 1
Snowy school bus

School bus in a snow storm.

As the season for wintry weather approaches, Superintendent LaTanya McDade has announced a new weather category for Prince William schools that could significantly reduce the number of school days lost to inclement weather: “Code Orange.”

On Code Orange days, schools will be closed to all students and teachers, just like on Code Red days. The difference is that on Code Orange days, students will be expected to do schoolwork remotely – or “asynchronously,” meaning without the help of a live teacher – when bad weather prevents schools from operating in person.

McDade announced the change in a letter emailed to parents Friday afternoon. In explaining the change, McDade cited the negative impact of the pandemic on student learning and the need to “maximize the time available to provide instruction for our students.” 

“We have also made significant investments in technology support for our students, teachers, and staff,” McDade added. “These investments have provided the means to deliver instruction and work remotely, even when buildings may not be available for in-person learning.”

When schools closed in March 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, the school division scrambled to purchase laptops and electronic tablets for all students and to adopt “Canvas,” an e-learning platform that would allow students to access and complete their schoolwork from home.

The school division operated mostly remotely throughout the 2020-21 school year, which is also when schools completed the task of ensuring that each student had the computer equipment and internet connection needed to attend school remotely. 

The new policy won’t mean a total end to Code Red days, however, McDade said.

The school division will continue to use Code Red – meaning a halt to all school instruction and activities -- for days when the school division cannot ensure remote learning access, such as when inclement weather leads to the possibility of power outages.

Code Orange days will also likely be called when bad weather requires a late opening, most commonly a two-hour delay, because of the ongoing shortage in bus drivers, which would make delayed openings even more challenging than usual, McDade said.

“Due to the ongoing national shortage of bus drivers, PWCS continues to have a number of double and triple bus runs,” she wrote. “These runs make it logistically impracticable to have delayed openings.”

This year, while students are working asynchronously on Code Orange days, teachers will be expected to work from home on tasks such as grading assignments, planning and working on professional development. They will also be asked to provide time for students to “check in” with them as needed, McDade’s letter said.

Next school year, however, teachers could be expected to teach students “live” during remote instruction days. The move to asynchronous instruction during Code Orange days this year will enable teachers and schools to determine what improvements and adjustments might be needed to make that happen during the 2022-23 school year, McDade’s letter said.

You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.

2020 was a year marked by hardships and challenges, but the Prince William community has proven resilient. The Prince William Times is honored to serve as your community companion. To say thank you for your continued support, we’d like to offer all our subscribers -- new or returning --


We understand the importance of working to keep our community strong and connected. As we move forward together into 2021, it will take commitment, communication, creativity, and a strong connection with those who are most affected by the stories we cover.

We are dedicated to providing the reliable, local journalism you have come to expect. We are committed to serving you with renewed energy and growing resources. Let the Prince William Times be your community companion throughout 2021, and for many years to come.


Recommended for you

Recommended for you

(1) comment


How many student laptops/tablets have been lost, stolen, or broken?

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Page Title

The future of Prince William Times now depends on community support. Your donation will help us continue to improve our journalism through in-depth local news coverage and expanded reader engagement.

Keeping you connected to the Community. Find or Submit your local event here..

Sign Up For Newsletters