Did schools overreact in closing today? Or, did they want to avoid 2014 horror?

Remember this in 2014? A car police car and a tractor trailer drive past an abandon car and school buss on 166 in East Point on Wednesday afternoon January 29, 2014. BEN GRAY / BGRAY@AJC.COM

Newspapers expect their employees to show up in bad weather. When I was eight months pregnant with my first child in 1988, I slid down our steep driveway on a plastic lid and walked a mile with my husband to the Decatur MARTA station. (Let me add that I was young and stupid and wised up with my subsequent pregnancies.)

As a parent, I used to hate weather-related closings in the era before telecommuting became an option. I would scramble to ask friends or sitters to watch my kids. Sometimes, co-workers would bring their older kids to work and set them in a corner with a book.

So, I sympathize with the parents complaining today that the metro-wide school closings were unnecessary. Most businesses – with the exception of government offices, many of which are closing early – are up and running today and expect their workers to be as well. Hourly workers often have the least ability to take a sudden personal day to remain home with their kids when schools close.

I am not sure how we avoid school closings that then prove unnecessary. Four years ago, we saw the terrible consequences when districts don’t shut down early enough.

In January of 2014, two inches of snow and ice that began midday immobilized metro Atlanta and turned routine commutes into 20-hour ordeals. Thousands of schoolchildren and drivers were stuck in buses on paralyzed interstates. Teachers stayed overnight with their students who could not get home. Eventually, the governor activated the National Guard.

I don’t think any of us will forget the accounts of children trapped in buses or the photos of school gyms full of students sleeping on mats. As the AJC reported at the time:

The cold and grueling traffic jam for the history books took a special toll on thousands of parents who spent a lonely and agonizing night Tuesday apart from their children stranded in school buses and classrooms.

The snowstorm certainly galvanized teachers, bus drivers, police officers and neighbors to work together and ensure children were sheltered and accounted for, but it also caught officials flat-footed, with a response to the gathering snowstorm that ignited outrage.

More than 10,000 students hadn’t arrived home as of 9 p.m. Tuesday, the number shrinking to 2,000 by noon Wednesday and to near zero soon after, according to estimates released by Gov. Nathan Deal’s office.

At Centennial High School in north Fulton County, about two dozen special needs students spent the night. Some needed medications left at home, so teachers walked to a nearby Kroger for emergency prescriptions and to a Pizza Hut for a to-go order.

Students around metro Atlanta had to hunker down in schools after their buses or parents got caught in the commuter chaos. Some children left school, striking out on foot, trying to walk home or to their parents’ cars stuck in traffic.

Superintendents defended their decisions not to cancel school Monday evening, despite the snowy forecasts. They said the meteorologists were uncertain about the timing and depth of the snow, and that it came sooner than expected Tuesday.

The postmortem of Snowmageddon 2014 generally found the state failed to prepare for the threat of dangerous weather and then responded too slowly to the resulting gridlock when schools and businesses closed all at once. But there was another factor at play. Earlier in January, schools shut down in response to cold temperatures, leading to criticisms that the better response should have been a heavy coat, not a day off from school. Perhaps, districts did not want to risk the wrath of parents again by closing for weather that didn’t show up.

Readers on my AJC Get Schooled Facebook page generally praised the decision to close today, although  many in the Atlanta area — it’s another story around Ringgold — noted this morning their streets were clear of ice. Some examples:

•As usual, clear. Damned if you do…..I don’t envy these administrators!

Thank you for making the safety of our children and staff a priority!

 I believe they should wait until 5 a.m. to cancel. Things can change quickly overnight.

We got some rain in Lithonia around 10:30, but it was 36 degrees by that time. What a waste of a snow day.

Do they not have two-hour delays down here? Do they not have two-hour delays down here? I grew up in Pennsylvania, and when bad weather was expected like this we just went in late. Why is it always right to cancellations? If they are just worried about the morning roads, why not just delay the start of school?

Some believe today’s closings were not about weather but the University of Georgia-University of Alabama national football game that will bring a presidential motorcade and thousands of fans to downtown Atlanta. While those factors would impact Atlanta and Fulton schools, they don’t explain why districts far from downtown would need to close. I don’t see the game as a factor in the decisions.

Your thoughts? Is there a better way? What about delayed openings? Emory delayed its start until noon. Agnes Scott College delayed until 11:30 a.m. UGA delayed until 10 a.m.

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

89 comments
Mai Carter Harvey
Mai Carter Harvey

Yes, and the superintendents should've checked roads and weather the morning of. Cobb County received no rain until 11:00am. It was a wasted day and kids should've been in school.

Tracy Graham
Tracy Graham

Whichever way the schools decided to go, the media in their role as armchair quarterback, would second-guess them.

Bob Beavers
Bob Beavers

I’m in Dalton. Roads were way too icy for school buses on Monday morning.

Lee Walker
Lee Walker

no maybe if the news wasn't so scary & reported facts & enough with the dogs need to be inside but toss kids out for school bs we all could use common sense

Bernice Stokes Dean
Bernice Stokes Dean

They did not over react as it was icy everywhere at the time the buses would be running. Safety of the students is what is important

Ruth Peeples Woods
Ruth Peeples Woods

Where our children are concerned, always err on the side of caution and not on their well being.

Barbara Cothran
Barbara Cothran

No they did not and should have went on snow schedule today in the ice!!

Stephon Brown
Stephon Brown

Nature happens, Atlanta needs to stop being scary and let the kids endure the elements of life. You keep them out of school because of the cold and they stay ho,e and makes videos and take pictures all day, guess where, IN THE COLD!! What's the difference if they're at home or in school?? Then you have make up days at the end of the year. You're just raising a generation to be afraid of life and nature.

Pamela Kanes
Pamela Kanes

That’s really not true. Not this time but weeks ago we had a horrible snow that was not supposed to happen. 12 inches to be exact. People lost power, Trees were down a lot of people were hurt and in accidents. My grandchild did not go to school that day and I’m thankful. And we’ve had times that parents could not Get to their kids and kids were at school till midnight and later waiting to be picked up. And that’s a fact. So I say trust your instincts and do what you have to do.

Cheryl Denham
Cheryl Denham

When schools are closed when it snows it due to putting the children in danger by putting buses on the road. I do not car good od a driver you are black ice is deadly.

KROmen
KROmen

There was too much traffic to be handled, that's why they used the weather as an excuse to cut into the commuting population.

Lisa Holland
Lisa Holland

Yes in Morganton Ga they did well it was just a two hour delay here

Lisa Skaggs
Lisa Skaggs

Over react but who can blame them—the snow that fell that wasn’t foreseen before Christmas caused such a needless uproar from parents that they couldn’t take anymore chances.

Vicky Oliver
Vicky Oliver

I feel whenever they close school isn't for safety to all. What's the problem. What disrespect

Ch Le
Ch Le

No they did it bcuz of the game. Trump was here and traffic would have been horrendous. Free day

Tena Burnett
Tena Burnett

I think the better question is if the weather reporters overreacted. The schools can only go with the information they have. The first thing people would say is ohhhhh they should’ve listened to the weather reports blah blah blah.

Judith Hulse
Judith Hulse

It is better to overreact than to chance what could have happened. Safety first, it just makes sense.

Mary Eye
Mary Eye

NO! When in doubt, close it out. Surely the loss of one child due to bad roads would be too many.

Andrea Patrick Hendry
Andrea Patrick Hendry

No they under-reacted back in December when buses had problems getting kids home when they gave less than an hours notice.

Gerald Newborn Jr.
Gerald Newborn Jr.

On because it was Elvis birthday and the national championship was to

Toby Van Marter
Toby Van Marter

Maybe they just wanted to get to their UGA tailgate parties early?

Cindy S. Villatoro
Cindy S. Villatoro

If they had not closed and the roads had iced over there would be outcry, if the school over react there's outcry! Another dilema like the one we had in 2014 where kids were stranded at schools for days is what they are trying to avoid, so just be thankful.

Art Brown
Art Brown

Yup. They sure did. But my 17yr went to the 1/2 time concert so she didn’t care.

Lee Townsend
Lee Townsend

Glad the schools were closed, as it made for a better commute.

Travis Smith
Travis Smith

Parents lose their minds around here when they don’t cancel.

Liddie Weddle
Liddie Weddle

No why take a chance with our children when they can make it up in the in of the school year

Roberta Sutton
Roberta Sutton

It was all about the president coming and football.

Lee Townsend
Lee Townsend

Maybe but it did make for a better commute.

Hugh Schumpert
Hugh Schumpert

Lady. I think it was for the safety of kids on a scool bus

Andrew Riley
Andrew Riley

if the President got stuck in traffic some pissed-off Atlien may have tried to ram into the motorcade lol - I can totally see it happening the people here are pretty reckless sometimes

Nika Jones Alban
Nika Jones Alban

Safety first..after the 35 car accident yesterday I would say better safe than sorry.