Sullivan County

Making the decision to close schools

Making the decision to close schools

SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - Some school systems had to make a quick decision to shut down Tuesday as weather conditions continued to deteriorate.

But just how are those decisions to delay or close a school system made? We discovered each school district has its own system. They're out on the roads early in the morning getting their information first-hand.

Gene Johnson, transportation supervisor for Sullivan County Schools, is one of six people who hit the road during inclement weather Tuesday. "The county is divided into six sections. We each have a section, and we're responsible for getting out and checking the roads in that section, then reporting back," Johnson said.

"I leave home at 3:45 in the morning. We drive for about an hour fifteen minutes, and at 5 a.m. we get on the radios or on the phone, talking about what we've seen. We start to make a decision and announce it by 5:30," Human Resources supervisor Elizabeth Sells said.

Washington County, Virginia has gone as far as to put their procedures on how they make their decisions on their website. "Sometimes [parents] wonder how the decision-making process proceeds. It was actually put down on paper, created in a document and posted on our website so people would be informed how we make decisions to delay or close schools," Assistant Superintendent Jeff Noe says.

Washington County, Virginia Schools were closed Tuesday, but the decision becomes a little more difficult when schools are already in session. "A day like today, we were not in school, but it's happened already once this year that we've had to send students home. We gather information from weather services and we have one [meteorologist] that we talk to directly," Noe said.

But no matter the school system, making a decision to close or delay because of weather conditions doesn't come easy. "Sometimes we talk 20 to 30 minutes before we actually come to the final decision, but our upmost consideration is what's the safest situation for the children," Sells said.

"We have to take care of the kids. It's important to educate them, but we've got to take care of them," Johnson added.

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