Schools err on side of caution



By Chris Kieffer and Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

Wednesday’s weather was less frightful than forecasted, but most area schools were shuttered out of precaution.

“It turns out we could have had school today, but it’s better safe than sorry,” said Lee County Schools Superintendent Jimmy Weeks.

New Albany Superintendent Jackie Ford said that even though the weather wasn’t as bad as predicted, his district made the right call.

“It was icy this morning,” Ford said on Wednesday afternoon. “We would have had some travel problems.”

Most districts made their cancellation decisions on Tuesday night, prompted by a winter weather warning predicting two to four inches of snow with wintery precipitation throughout the day.

“We have to listen to the experts and make the best call we can for the safety of the children,” said Tupelo Public School District Superintendent Gearl Loden.

Oxford was among the few districts where students didn’t get a snow day on Wednesday. Superintendent Brian Harvey and his staff waited to make a call until they assessed road conditions early on Wednesday morning.

“It’s hard for me to call something when there’s nothing on the ground,” said Harvey, adding he was confident they could get students home safely if conditions changed during the day.

It was that concern that influenced Weeks’ decision to cancel Wednesday’s classes for Lee County Schools.

“What I worried about is if we get to school and have to dismiss early, and we have parents at work who can’t get off and there is no place for kids to go,” said Weeks, adding he realizes it helps parents plan when the district can make a decision the night before. “We just tried to do it where parents can take care of things.”

In January, Birmingham and Atlanta were walloped by midday snow that left students stranded on buses and in schools.

“That’s fresh on your mind,” Loden said.

When they have to make a call on weather cancellations, superintendents said they look closely at forecasts from the National Weather Service and local forecasters and gather reports on road conditions with the help of staff members, police, sheriff’s departments and highway patrol.

Several superintendents said they and their staffs would be out again early Thursday morning monitoring road conditions to decide if they needed a delayed start. All are expected to have classes today.

“We’re going to err on the side of safety,” Ford said. “We’re not going to put anyone’s life in danger. We can always make up a day of school.”

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