Decatur Schools Superintendent: Decision to close schools because of weather is “never easy”
Superintendent Phyllis Edwards this week sent a letter to parents explaining City Schools of Decatur’s rationale for closing schools last week due to severe cold weather.
CSD closed its schools on Jan. 6 and Jan. 7. While other schools in the metro area had a teacher work day Jan. 6, City Schools of Decatur had planned to resume classes that day. It joined with other schools in closing Jan. 7. The decision ticked off some parents who said that their children could’ve bundled up and attended class on those days.
Edwards said it came down to a question of student safety.
In her letter to parents, Edwards writes, “CSD was one of the only systems that had students returning to school on Monday. Naturally, the thinking is very different when determining how to handle such a situation when you are not considering the children. Sunday evening, the weather reports included rain overnight, high winds and freezing temperatures falling steadily throughout the morning. I made the call relatively early for Monday so that parents might be able to find alternate childcare. My main concerns at that point included the threat of icy roadways, dropping temperatures and the concern of high winds. High winds can cause the largest of trees to topple. This happened several years ago at Glennwood Elementary. A huge tree came down and landed parallel to the building. Thankfully, we were not in school.
“On Tuesday, the weather conditions worsened with the temperatures dropping dangerously low. In this instance, I worry about students being outside for any length of time. Most students in Decatur do not have clothing appropriate for skiing or visiting climates that have below freezing tempartures. All metro-Atlanta superintendents made the same call for Tuesday: no school for students.
“Other factors included transportation, with buses unable to start in freezing cold temperatures and making sure that the buildings were properly heated. As we checked all buildings on Tuesday and Tuesday night, we found that several pipes burst. The fire department responded to a broken pipe at Oakhurst and in the process, the heat was cut off. We were able to rectify this situation early on Wednesday. Another pipe burst at the 4/5 Academy during the day on Wednesday. The fire department was called to the school.”
Edwards added, “With close to 4000 students and 600 employees, it is never an easy call.”
She said makeup days will be scheduled on March 10 and May 29 (weather permitting, of course).