Why did major school systems wait to announce closings?

Given all the warnings of today's bad weather, did the major school systems wait too long to tell parents and staffs that schools were closed? Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com

Given all the warnings of today's bad weather, did the major school systems wait too long to tell parents and staffs that schools were closed? Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com

Last night at 7:o6, I received this reader note about why the big school systems had not yet officially closed schools. The automated telephone alert notifying me that my local schools would be closed came at 8:45 p.m Sunday. (Just checked my cell phone to make sure of the time.)

But I had assumed all day that my kids would not have school because the weather reports were so dire and everything was closing.

Did some systems wait to the last minute to inform parents? It seemed clear from weather reports that the decision to close schools could have been made by midday as it was in many systems.

Here is the reader note:

The Governor has declared a state of emergency, the GA Dep’t of  Transportation has asked everyone to stay off the roads. Am I the only  one that thinks it is bizarre that all school systems except those in  Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, and Rockdale have announced  they will be closed tomorrow?  I cannot comprehend the delay. Families and employees need to make arrangements for tomorrow.

Is this a game  of chicken with everyone waiting for someone else to make the first  move? Is it collusion in an exercise of absolute stupidity and  insensitivity?  What is the delay? Everyone knows the roads will be  hazardous tomorrow.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

86 comments Add your comment

justin

January 10th, 2011
9:20 am

This parent is a clear evidence that there are too many people in this world who think they know the answer to everything and anything (or anyone) that doesn’t match their expectation is wrong/incompetent.

School Closings

January 10th, 2011
9:29 am

No this is a perfect example of school systems not using common sense. School closings should have been announced yesterday afternoon. As the predictions kept getting worse instead of better, the schools should have erred on the side of caution and announced closings. As for incompetency, there is no doubt in the minds of many that the school system in Georgia has far more than their share of incompetent people running the system.

teacher&mom

January 10th, 2011
9:33 am

I’m not taking a side in this discussion. Just making a point…yesterday on facebook several parents were mocking Carroll country for announcing their cancellation so early.

Sometimes you can’t win for losing……

Belinda

January 10th, 2011
9:36 am

I applaud Gwinnett County for waiting until 10PM to cancel school for today. How many times do the weather people get it right? This same person would be screaming if the kids were out of school and all we got was rain—which has happened in the past. Some things just cannot be planned out days in advance much to the dismay of many compulsive day planner addicts.

AlreadySheared

January 10th, 2011
9:36 am

Let there be no more entries on this vapid blog topic.

Attentive Parent

January 10th, 2011
9:38 am

Does anyone else remember in 1983, the year after the infamous Snowjam, meteorologists predicted a major storm that never came?

School districts had all cancelled school and then nothing happened. At all.

Now they tend to wait for the beginning of the event touching a district’s boundaries.

Mike

January 10th, 2011
9:44 am

With roads continuing to be unsafe and temperatures not rapidly rising, does anybody have any insight into closings or delays for tomorrow?

Write Your Board Members

January 10th, 2011
9:46 am

I am guessing that this will be a multi-day out of school event.

Michael

January 10th, 2011
9:47 am

Well, it happened and we know what the temperatures are going to be like today, tonight, and tomorrow. So, should they also wait to make the call for tomorrow?

Chrome Gouda

January 10th, 2011
9:49 am

It’s a no win situation for the schools. Cancel school too early, and then the snow or ice never appears (as has happened many,many times in the past) and everyone is screaming about how inconvenienced they are. Wait too long, and you have self-righteous people like the guy who emailed you talking about how no one uses common sense except for him.

There is nothing wrong with waiting long enough to make the most well-informed decision.

Write Your Board Members

January 10th, 2011
9:52 am

I was a little surprised that Gwinnett waited until 10 PM. However, in the past, GCSS has had school on days other systems haven’t. Sometimes that has been the right call but sometimes it hasn’t.

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School Closings

January 10th, 2011
9:55 am

Michael – I certainly think they should be paying very close attention to the scenario as it plays out today and if it continues to get worse, they need to make a call early this evening. Temps tonight will re-freeze anything that has melted and due to the roads the school bus takes from where my grandson gets on to get to the school, if things continue to worsen, he won’t be going, at least in the morning on the bus. Where lives are involved I think erring on the side of common sense and caution is what should take top priority. And no I don’t live out in the country; I live in metro area. I don’t pretend to know more than anyone else but what I do know is that the safety of my grandson is more important than a missed day of school.

Veteran teacher, 2

January 10th, 2011
9:56 am

People want it both ways. They criticize when you close early, and they criticize when they close later. Last year, we had a few flakes of snow in an obvious snow flurry with no accumulation. The phones lit up at school with parents wanting to know what time we would be closing. I am all for erring on the side of caution, but frankly snowfall has almost become yet another entitlement. The reason we are out of school is not snow. The reason we are out is that it is potentially unsafe getting there, or there is a chance we would need to leave after snow starts.

I hope everyone remembers news reports with footage of the stranded cars all around Atlanta when the storm hit faster and with more force than was predicted. Imagine if many of those vehicles were school buses full of kids. Please do not criticize your local superintendent next time he/she makes the decision to close. He/she is trying to make his/her best decision based on the information they have at the time of the decision.

Old Timer Educator

January 10th, 2011
10:01 am

Systems should always err on the side of caution. Better to inconvenience the entire school community than to take the chance with the life of one student or employee. I can remember last year during the floods – GCPS didn’t call school until after the kids and staff were already reporting…..and a woman had already been killed in the county that morning due to the rain.

Samua

January 10th, 2011
10:05 am

Schools are now faced with economic issues that directly impact the ability to close schools. For instance, many school districts did not build in snow days, so if they call school, there will be added time to the days, or a loss of breaks that are currently scheduled. Likewise, many districts are now discussing furloughing snow days, like the one that happened a few weeks ago. Teachers are already losing money this year, and the snow days make it worse. I commend the school districts for taking their time and analyzing the situation. Douglas County sent their students to school 2 hours late several weeks ago, and saved the teachers and students a lot of frustration. That was a fiscally responsible thing to do, because the roads were fine at that point. I suspect that this week off (yes, I think teachers will go back Wed or Thursday, students will return Thursday or Friday) will financally reak havoc on many of the districts. I believe previous breaks scheduled will be taken away, and I think many of these days will now be furloughed. Just wait until we all start complaining about that!

Inane Discussion

January 10th, 2011
10:05 am

“Families and employees need to make arrangements for tomorrow.”

Really? I don’t think so. This guy needs to get over himself and let the school systems do their jobs. They are going to make every effort to hold school if at all possible, and that means waiting until the last moment to see what the reality of the weather system turns out to be – not some weather person’s prediction. If you had bet on the weather people in this city being right every time they’ve called for snow and ice, you’d be well past broke.

MsCrabtree

January 10th, 2011
10:05 am

Currently, Clayton’s website says schools and school business will operate on a REGULAR schedule tomorrow. LOL are they kidding. The roads will be in the same shape tomorrow morning as they are now.

Sharitta

January 10th, 2011
10:06 am

I agree with Veteran teacher, 2. I remember when snow was predicted one year and they closed our schools and it never snowed. Parents were livid. You can not have it both ways. As I say, better safe than sorry.

MsCrabtree

January 10th, 2011
10:07 am

And for those who think this discussion is inane, if we could all walk to school whether we are teachers or students, then it would be a moot point. However, would you really put your child at risk on a school bus? Would you really risk driving with all the nuts on the road who don’t understand you can’t drive on ice 40 miles an hour?

And the beat goes on

January 10th, 2011
10:08 am

This thread is indicative of how school systems (administrators, teachers, anyone connected to a school) will never be able to win. Did you announce too early to too late? Teachers are overpaid because they have two weeks off at Christmas, but parents want their children to have at least two weeks off at Christmas; are you going to pay teachers to work when kids aren’t there? Too little testing; kids are graduating without knowing anything. Too much testing; kids don’t learn to do anything but take a test. Discipline is too lax in schools, but don’t touch my child, just correct everyone else’s. We are not adequately funding schools but don’t dare raise my taxes. Even when it comes to predicting the weather and whether schools should close or not, we call if off too soon or too late. An earlier blogger is correct – damn if you do and damn if you don’t. And, indeed, the beat goes on…

Lisa B.

January 10th, 2011
10:16 am

Great post, Beat. I completely agree with you.

Ernest

January 10th, 2011
10:35 am

I’m reminded of an old C&W song, “If it ain’t one thing, it’s another’. And the beat goes on is ‘right on’ with their response…

School Closings

January 10th, 2011
10:38 am

I want to make one thing very very clear and my record where schools are concerned can be substantiated and proven. I fight loud and hard for teachers and am the first to get on the School Board when they mistreat and disrespect them; my grandson is taught to respect his teachers and he knows he better behave or he is in trouble when he gets home also; if I feel the teacher is partially wrong in a situation, I do not express this but go directly to the teacher to talk about it. I have been very fortunate through 7 years of school that a situation like this happened only once and it was a sub who was so full of herself that the only reason anything got accomplished was she chose to come to the front office rather than having me come to the classroom and the principal, assistant principal and office personnel all were there when she went into her tirade and acting like everyone but her was wrong. If my grandson misbehaves in school he knows full well as do the teachers that there is a consequence for unruly behavior. Again, I have been blessed in this area as there has never been any of this. I agree discipline is too lax in schools – when I went to school you got one chance to straighten up if you misbehaved; the second time got you a trip to the principal’s office and if that didn’t work then there was a big pow wow with the student, parents and principal. If you continued to misbehave you got expelled for three days and could not make up the work you missed. Needless to say in most cases the first trip to the principal’s office did the trick. However, I still believe that their are instances where erring on the side of caution is necessary.

thankateacher

January 10th, 2011
10:40 am

It makes no sense to wait until 8:00 p.m. to make a decision that was made by surrounding school systems hours earlier. Douglas County looked really foolish this time. That makes Gwinnett County look off the wall.

It will be interesting to see how late they wait to make that decision for Tuesday. I have no doubt that the roads will be in no better shape after refreezing overnight Monday. Those idiots will wait till midnight this time.

Gwinnett doen't care

January 10th, 2011
11:05 am

Gwinnett would not care if students or teachers were killed enroute to their “world class schools!” LOL. All they care about is manipulated data to perpetuate the myth.

deep touble

January 10th, 2011
11:15 am

Does it matter if the call is made late? Parents need to prepare on their own regardless. I wouldn’t put my kid on the bus if I felt it was unsafe for any reason.

deep touble

January 10th, 2011
11:18 am

Gwinnett doen’t care… that is just plain ridiculous/asinine and stupid!

Chris Murphy, Atlanta, GA

January 10th, 2011
11:22 am

@AttentiveParent: I remember that- ended up a 60 degree Fri., completely clear skies. Stores were out of milk & bread by Wed.
We were notified by email last night at 8:59 PM, which was good timing, as decisions have to be made (and justified, and argued ; >) about bedtime. APS got it right this time. I agree that you don’t cancel over a weather prediction- see above- but the schools (both charter, but still APS: Neighborhood Charter and ATL Charter Middle) did well in notifying parents of the predictions and APS cancellation policy on Fri.

Calm Down

January 10th, 2011
11:23 am

If you think that the superintendents of the area schools do not put student and teacher safety first in making decisions about closing schools, you have a real problem. Fortunately they are not trying to put your sense of convenience first.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming.

January 10th, 2011
11:23 am

Well, at least they do cancel. In Illinois, if it was really bad, my district would not cancel school, just the bus service! That way, they saved themselves from potential lawsuits if a bus were to crash – but in doing so, they put a lot of parents, children, and teachers out on unsafe icy roads in cars.

justin

January 10th, 2011
11:35 am

I see no problem if school systems do not make the decision about tomorrow until 9pm or beyond.

Inane Discussion

January 10th, 2011
11:36 am

For the record, I got a call from Cobb County at 8:30 p.m. and I had actually seen it on the AJC web site more than an hour before. Plenty of notice for me, and I’m glad Cobb waited to make an informed decision about what was really happening with the weather. Tomorrow is going to be a tougher call.

Jennifer

January 10th, 2011
11:56 am

Game of chicken for sure.

In a recent GCPS Board meeting I understand that a Gwinnett board member was stroking themselves for waiting until the last minute, literally I think it was after midnight when the call was made – for a 10 AM opening the following day when other systems had announced at a decent hour for parents to make childcare arrangements.
Not very parent centered – which in turn means – not very child centered decision making.

catlady

January 10th, 2011
12:22 pm

Well, we were notified by robo-call at 6 pm. But we are not in metro Atlanta. We won’t be at school at all this week–my prediction. The kids have already lost at least 6 days in this unusually snowy season.

The year of SnowJam (1982?) my system delayed getting out even though you could see the snow marching through Alabama like Sherman. We had to serve lunch, and contact all the bus drivers (who were presumably blind for not being able to see). Started about 11 and we finally ran the buses at about 1:00. THEN the teachers could leave. The roads were completely iced/snowed up–it was awful. One of the high school teachers wrecked on the way home; didn’t kill her but messed up her spine, legs, and brain so much she cannot really function–all in the name of “feeding the kids.” I KNOW we need the federal reimbursement (70% FRPL) money badly to pay for the cooks, administration of the program, etc. but it is crazy! When we get out half-day we start feeding lunch at 10:15!

As to when to call off school, I leave it to the leadership of the superintendent. He is more fully aware of the situation all over our mountain county. There is more going on than just what I see from my front door! (You ought to remember that, folks.)

BTW, until this “snow event” the Weather Channel has missed it on every other snow we have had this school year. One, where we got 3 inches, was not called at all, and another was to be a dusting and we got 5 inches. We have also had a couple of other snows this year that TWC did not call. So, they are not infallible. I love them, but sometimes they miss it. And I remember, too, the snow storm that didn’t several years ago. It burned our superintendent so bad he was too cautious in calling classes the rest of the year. Here is the rule: If you see snow, it snowed. If you don’t, it didn’t. At least at your house.

I just hope the superintendents make wise calls with good information from their subordinates.

Tom Teacher

January 10th, 2011
12:25 pm

I was thrilled Gwinnett called it at 10; I didn’t expect to hear anything before midnight or morning…so 10 was great! I think the Gwinnett policy is to never call it til it hits the ground. One time in the late 90’s they called it the night before and it was totally clear the next day. I’ve never seen them call it the night before since. I would be surprised if we are back in school before Thursday, which is very upsetting as we try to get these kids ready for the state writing test next week. Oh well!

Tony

January 10th, 2011
12:31 pm

Wow! So many self-proclaimed experts. Most of you have no clue how so many agencies must interact regarding matters like this. To use your idea of decision like closing school as a measure of someone else’s incompetence is rather audacious.

On another note, look at all the dingbats out driving around today. They are giving the media plenty of fodder. Of course, the media dingbats are driving around, too.

Private school guy

January 10th, 2011
12:33 pm

Part of the problem is school closings is not that systems can’t get busing running and schools operational but more so that with staff who may live 30+ miles from their school site. When a major portion of your staff can’t make it to the school it’s hard to have classes.
As far as the late announcements go the inner metro systems seem to wait to the last minute. I have been on my way to work a few years ago when it was announced on the radio that schools were closed. For me 8:45 is an improvement.

thankateacher

January 10th, 2011
12:37 pm

Awww, poor tomteacher. I feel so bad for your plans to get the kids ready for their writing test. That darned snow! The nerve of that snow to ruin your plans! Well, what you could do is go pick up all those students yourself and “get them ready for the test”. Good luck with that!

I wonder if the powers that be in Gwinnett County were informed that snow was hitting the ground well before 10:00 p.m. Not only that, but the snow was actually sticking to the roads! It would not have hurt to make that decision at 8:00 p.m.

Some people are just morons when it comes to the safety and common good of children.

irisheyes

January 10th, 2011
12:47 pm

Really? They were upset because at 7 pm (when there was nothing yet at my house), the schools hadn’t cancelled snow? No wonder people in the north make fun of us! I think waiting until there is actually snow (or ice) on the ground is a good idea. It’s not like they waited so long that kids were already out waiting for the buses. That would be last minute to me.

Michael Donnelly

January 10th, 2011
12:55 pm

With the storm system over us, but no snow hitting the ground because of such low humidity early in the evening (before 6pm) last night, it makes sense that the announcements were delayed. Better to be sure we would be affected than make an early and unretractable bad decision.
Just enjoy the time with your family, we’ll be back to it soon enough.
And one final note. Our Kroger was out of milk at 1pm yesterday. We southerners love that milk, eh?

My Two Cents

January 10th, 2011
12:57 pm

thankateacher – Clearly, you don’t have a child who must pass that test to be promoted. Why would you ever mock a teacher for expressing concerns that instructional time is lost? It’s this kind of attitude that is passed down to students and makes preparation for assessment so much more difficult. If adults set such a sarcastic example towards education, how can we expect the kids to take the learning seriously?

Talk about a moron with no concern for the common good of students…

Henry County Mom

January 10th, 2011
1:01 pm

We will be closed all week. In 1983, there was a blizzard in March and we had to go to school on 3 Saturdays. I Love this Global Warming!!!!!!!!!

EdDawg

January 10th, 2011
1:06 pm

Please, I was surprised that Gwinnett announced at 10 PM; I figured they would wait until 5 AM like usual policy. Students must be in class in order to learn the AKS no matter what! That means floods, famine, snow, ice, terrorist attacks etc. Nothing will stop us! School will go on no matter what.

fred

January 10th, 2011
1:28 pm

My school system never cancels before 530 am day of cancellations. there have been many times when I have turned the car around to go home or even been in the school office answering calls when we finally get the message to close. I would be happy with a midnight call to close. Your storm is heading up here (VA) now and I will not know until tomorrow AM if we will have a closing, delay or a regular school day.

Inane Discussion

January 10th, 2011
1:57 pm

Comments like those by thankateacher are the reason this is an inane discussion.

thankateacher

January 10th, 2011
2:00 pm

Hey “inane discussion”, if you don’t like what I post, there is a simple solution for you. Don’t read it. How simple was that?

thankateacher

January 10th, 2011
2:07 pm

If you are more concerned about your students “passing a test” than their safety on buses, then you have a real problem. Get out of teaching if the test is more important than general safety. Sheesh.

Helena

January 10th, 2011
2:10 pm

@catlady – The Weather Channel got it wrong? Funny, since their HQ and broadcast center are near Cumberland Mall. I’ve been amused by CNN’s hype of the storm today — they always assume that anything happening in Atlanta is also important to the rest of the world. ;)

Does anyone know how many potential snow days are built into the school systems’ calendars (especially Cobb’s)? I think we should be fine with two if school is also canceled tomorrow, but I’d rather not deal with additional days at the end of the year if Wednesday is out as well. We got lucky last year because we lost two days in the fall due to flooding, but we only needed one snow day during the winter.

Teacher Reader

January 10th, 2011
2:15 pm

Can’t believe people are complaining about when the announcements were made. If I were the superintendent, I wouldn’t have made the call until the snow started falling. Too many times, schools have been canceled and no snow has arrived. Schools are darned if they do and darned if they don’t. This amount of snow wouldn’t have been trouble up North, because they have the tools to take care of it. I know how to drive in snow and won’t around here. I love life way too much!!