Cartersville Superintendent Howard Hinesley and Bartow County Superintendent John Harper both said their respective school systems monitored weather reports and did not expect there to be such a downpour of snow.
Both superintendents spoke to The Daily Tribune News on why the decision was made late morning and why there were subsequent transportation problems and concerns.
“We had a number of buses that were out on [local] field trips that we had to call back. We had to make sure we had all the drivers, and [Director of Transportation Ken Paige] was in constant communication with the county school system and with the city,” Hinesley said. “Our buses are staggard; we don’t have enough buses to get everybody home [at the same time].”
He said Cartersville High School students who drove to school were allowed to leave before the amended day’s end with the consent of their parents and parents had the option to pick up their students early.
“Where there’s been some confusion is that some parents called their child [directly]. We’ve had some parents call and say, ‘I don’t want my kid driving; don’t let them go,’ so we don’t release them until the time ... the buses leave at the high school,” Hinesley said. “Part of the problem is the phones are jammed, and where the confusion occurs is when a parent calls their own child and [the child says], ‘They won’t let me go,’ and that’s true — we don’t want to let them go and they have an accident and then the parents say, ‘Why did you let them go?’”
He said school staff remained on site to assist students who are awaiting transportation and he understands parents may be upset with the school system’s decision.
“We’ve got a lot of upset parents and I understand that. There never was a forecast that we saw where we were going to have this kind of weather,” Hinesley said. “The city told us they would put salt and sand on the bridges and that the roads seemed to be OK and then all of a sudden [it got worse].”
For Bartow County, which has more than 150 buses, the problems with transporting students were more severe.
“We were supposed to get a little dusting this morning at 9 or 9:30 and then it was supposed to go away and then the heavier weather would come in this afternoon, but that is not the case,” Harper said Tuesday afternoon, adding any students who were not able to leave their school due to transportation problems would be able to stay and would be fed.
Harper said about 2 p.m. Tuesday there were four buses on the road.
“In this particular situation, you put kids on a bus and take them home, and if there’s nobody there, you take them back to the school. Fortunately or unfortunately, that’s what we’re doing to keep our kids safe,” Harper said.
He also said the number of wrecks on county roads impeded the bus drivers’ ability to travel and that closing school early takes time.
“One of the things parents need to understand is when you call off school and say you’re closing early, you can’t just snap your fingers and make that happen. We’ve got to get the buses cranked. We’ve got to get them to the school, and that in itself takes some time to happen,” Harper said.
Lori Lambert, who has a student at Allatoona Elementary School, said she was upset with how Bartow schools handled the situation.
“When you can look out the window and see the snow coming down at 10 o’clock this morning, they should have called school and let parents pick their kids up,” Lambert said.
She questioned why they can cancel “for the prediction of a flake” but not Tuesday.
“They had a responsibility to us and our children. Today, lives were put in danger,” Lambert said Tuesday.
Kip Henderson, who spoke for Cass High School, said he called the school system at 11 a.m. when he saw ambulances to ask what the “game plan” was and they said they were observing the situation.
“The Board of Education sat on their heels and put lives in danger today,” Henderson said Tuesday. “Every one of these people need to be fired. That’s just idiocy. These people are incompetent.”
Neither school system will hold school today.