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Local superintendents talk about snowstorm response
by Staff Reports
February 05, 2014 03:34 PM | 3044 views | 1 1 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Associated Press Photo
Associated Press Photo
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The superintendents of the three local school districts last week each gave statements on their response to the snowstorm that crippled metro Atlanta with gridlock on its roads, forcing some schools to shelter students and leaving some children stranded on buses stuck in the ice.

The Cobb County School District and Fulton County Schools each dismissed classes two hours early Jan. 28, and Atlanta Public Schools only released its middle schools early, decisions later criticized.

In a press conference last week, Gov. Nathan Deal gave an update on metro Atlanta students that had been stranded at local schools.

“As you know there were several school systems affected, some more dramatically than others,” he said Wednesday. “Last night at midnight, Fulton County Schools had 99 school buses with children on the roads. By 1:30 this morning it was down to 45 buses and by this morning, there are zero buses on the roads for the Fulton County School system with children on them. Yesterday at 6 p.m. Fulton County Schools had about 25,000 children who were either on buses or in their schools. … By 9 p.m. it was down to 5,000 children either on buses or in schools. And this morning there are no children on buses, and there are about 2,000 of the Fulton County School system’s children that are still in their schools.

“In the Atlanta Public Schools system, last evening they had about 1,500 children that were either with them or on buses. By 9 p.m. it was down to 1,000 and this morning there are only about 400.

“… [The] Cobb County [School District], as of 9 o’clock last night, had anywhere between 1,500 and 2,000 students [stranded]. Some 320 spent the night overnight in their schools, and once again the National Guard and state troopers are providing escorts so that those children can be returned back to their homes.”

Deal also said the Gwinnett County and Decatur city school districts had no children stranded at schools Jan. 28, adding DeKalb County had only about six students sheltered, in a police precinct. Cherokee County had about 415 children who spent the night of Jan. 28 sheltered at their respective schools and only 50 children still stranded there Wednesday morning, Deal said.

Local superintendents talked about their response to the snowstorm, all saying they were surprised by the snowstorm, whose path changed to impact metro Atlanta more than originally expected.

“We have come through a difficult time, and we have all had to face some monumental challenges,” Atlanta Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr. said. “I do not want to underestimate or underappreciate both the shock and trauma of students, parents and employees who had to endure the storm while riding on buses, driving or sheltering in place. As a district, we did not deliver students in the timeframe that we wanted, but we applaud our bus drivers for delivering our children home safely … I certainly want to apologize to the students and their families, who were stranded overnight on buses. I also want to apologize for the challenges and difficulties that our students, families and employees have faced over the past few days.”

Cobb Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said, “As of 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, all Cobb County students and staff are home safely following the weather ordeal that began Tuesday morning. For that, we are truly grateful. I am immensely thankful for the heroic efforts of our staff and, especially, our bus drivers, who went far beyond their routine responsibilities to ensure the safety of students. … I am sorry that Cobb County parents had to endure a day like Tuesday. We will learn from this experience and take what steps we can to prevent it from happening again.”

Fulton Superintendent Robert Avossa added, “I am committed to learning from this so we make better, timelier decisions. … We would never intentionally put our students, staff and parents in harm’s way. I’m truly sorry for the inconveniences our families have faced and also for the distress they experienced. … There are still situations where we are reuniting students with their parents, and if we have any good news to report it’s that we have seen the best of our teachers, bus drivers, school leaders and other employees and volunteers.”
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Fulton County parent
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February 07, 2014
County superintendents are not stupid people. Interestingly, they all made the same decision to place school in session based on the weather information they had at the time when the decision had to be made. It would have been great to dismiss earlier, but I'm sure the logistical challenges with a bus transportation system that large are not insignificant. Surely ideas like making at least special needs buses and drivers stay at the school to facilitate early dismissal will be explored, along with other contingency plans. But please, don't overreact to the point of not being rational. I don't need multiple texts, cell and landline calls coming in several days this week because there is a 1% chance of snow. Fulton County sent a message last night that they MIGHT start two hours late today, and knowing they intended to call both my land and cell lines at 5 AM, I unplugged the landline and turned off the cell.
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