Waking up early to check for word of a snow day is no longer sufficient.

These days, the explosion in popularity of Twitter and Facebook mean the school kids of Montgomery County want more — weather forecasts, analysis of those forecasts, analysis of how MCPS has reacted to similar forecasts in the past and, of course, predictions.

That’s what Alex Tsironis provides with his MoCo Snow blog, which now attracts more than 40,000 views on some nights before forecasted snow. This winter, he’s gone from about 1,000 Twitter followers to nearly 4,000, including Board of Education members, actual meteorologists, the county department in charge of plowing roads and the MCPS spokesperson who makes any snow day or two-hour delay announcements.

“I just made a little blog that kind of got out to some kids I used to teach and some friends of those kids. It just took off from there,” said Tsironis, who teaches physical education at the school system’s Blair Ewing Center.

Tsironis’ fascination with the snow day started when he was a student in MCPS. He remembers detailed discussions of the next forecasted snow storm with his fifth-grade teacher. When he became a teacher in MCPS, he created a bulletin board in class on which he’d make predictions.

“The kids started loving it,” Tsironis said. “We make predictions and that’s the aspect that kids want. They want to know ahead of time.”


The MoCo Snow website includes a major disclaimer: “These predictions are not official. You should still complete all homework assignments, study for any tests/quizzes, and prepare to wake up for school on time unless the county states differently. These are only predictions.

Except Tsironis has a pretty good track record. He uses a five-pencil rating system for predictions the night before a storm event. The more pencils, the more Tsironis thinks there will be no school the next day.

Five pencils and “it’s almost certainly safe to stay up late, because there will probably be no school tomorrow.” He claims that out of 60 predictions since he started the site in 2011, only five have been incorrect. And he said he doesn’t consider a two-hour delay when he called for a full day off a correct prediction.


He’s not a meteorologist. He said he doesn’t have an inside line to the MCPS officials who make inclement weather decisions, though he will contact a source who plows snow around the county to gauge his feelings.

Tsironis pointed to his familiarity with the school system for his success, plus another aspect of snow day analysis that your typical meteorologist or news reporter often doesn’t consider. Each year, the MCPS schedule is built in order to accommodate four no-school days while still hitting the state-mandated 180 days of classroom instruction.

If MCPS has more than four snow days, as was the case last school year, it must apply for a waiver from the state not to have to make up those days. As last year’s waiver process showed, that’s not always a slam dunk.


“Like with this year, we haven’t had many big snowstorms so 1-3 inches of snow has a better chance of providing a delay or day off than it would have last year, when it seemed like we had a 4-8 inch snow storm almost every week,” Tsironis said. “It’s crazy to think that that’s part of the equation. But it is.”

Montgomery County’s sheer size (491 square miles) further complicates the process. If MCPS closes school or announces a two-hour delay, that closure or delay applies for the entire county.

“It can be raining in Bethesda and there can be four inches of snow in Damascus and that can close down the county. It’s happened,” Tsironis said. “Then you have everyone in Rockville and Bethesda wondering why there’s a delay.”


Last year, some MCPS students allegedly used Twitter to curse at and threaten Superintendent Joshua Starr over a wintry day on which the school system didn’t close school. That led to the creation of a “Cybercivility Task Force,” that Starr hoped to use as a learning tool for kids and teens using online social media.

As Twitter’s influence grows, so does its use as a sounding board for those students unhappy with school system decisions on snow days or delays.

Earlier this year, MCPS was briefly trending locally as kids voiced their objections over having to go to school on time on a brutally cold morning.


“Good or bad, social media’s huge,” said Tsironis, who will occasionally bear the brunt of a Twitter or Facebook insult if he makes a prediction a student doesn’t like.

It’s a long way from how kids use to find out whether snow meant they had the day off. Tsironis, 32, would wake up and follow the graphic on the bottom of the TV screen like everybody else, “and hope it didn’t go to commercial before they got to Montgomery County.”