Starting school late not an option for Metro

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 1:28am

To close or not to close, that is the question facing leaders every time winter weather threatens the safety of the more than 76,000 students who attend Nashville public schools.

Metro has cancelled class seven times this school year — two days more than they have built into the calendar. Some days it’s a no-brainer; others like Tuesday left parents wondering why their children were not in school.

Early Tuesday morning there was no shortage of warnings that wet roadways could have re-frozen overnight, but why did schools close for an entire day when a couple hours of sunshine cleared up the last slippery roads?

Metro has an answer — buses. Not just school buses but Metro Transit Authority buses that transport students to magnet schools.

“We have 10,000-plus students in magnet schools, and many of these students rely on MTA buses,” Metro schools spokesperson Noelle Mashburn said. “MTA cannot change bus schedules to accommodate schools.”

In addition to the students who rely on MTA, Metro schools data shows that roughly 52 percent, or 43,467 students, depend on traditional Metro school buses to provide transportation to and from school each day.

And those buses must travel roads all over the county including the less-populated areas in the northern part of Davidson County and the small community of Joelton.

Before making any decisions about canceling classes, Metro sends crews from the school system’s transportation department out to check the roads. They also factor in reports from Metro Public Works.

“We take a good comprehensive look — try get a good view of the entire city,” Mashburn said. “[After others have been cleared] there are still shadier areas on the less trafficked roads that still have ice.”

Most of the “known trouble spots” that crews look for when checking roadways are for schools in the Whites Creek cluster.

Those schools, excluding Bordeaux and Brick Church Middle School, account for 2,318 students, according to data provided by the school system. Add Goodlettsville and Neely’s Bend elementary and middle schools — in the Hunters Lane cluster — and that number climbs to nearly 4,400 students.

That may not seem like a lot of students, and not every student in those areas is affected, but there are enough to cause Metro to cancel school district-wide when the roads in downtown and the suburbs appear as clear as the sky on a cold winter night.

7 Comments on this post:

By: michael thomas on 2/17/10 at 6:55

For those parents upset about schools being closed yesterday, get over it. You are just mad that you had to watch your own kids instead of the teachers babysitting your kids. If you have a problem with that then maybe there should have been some better planning not to have kids!

By: af071175 on 2/17/10 at 8:33

To Michael Thomas: I stay home with my toddler who is not yet school-aged. Still, I can understand why many parents were upset about schools being closed. A lot of parents MUST work to put food on the table and they don't have anyone who can watch their children. They must either take an upaid day off or leave their children home alone - an unenviable position to be in. That doesn't mean they don't love their children or that they should've opted to remain childless. Please at least try to consider another person's possible circumstances before you make ugly comments.

By: girliegirl on 2/17/10 at 8:38

Af's right...some folks aren't wealthy, and the option to even find a sitter last minute is nearly impossible these days. The idea of losing your job because you cannot show up due to a "snow day" is beyond reproach, so Michael, show just a wee bit of human compassion, okay?

By: bsn on 2/17/10 at 9:15

I do understand that some parents do have to go to work to put food on the table thats undertandable. The parents should have had a plan B for Tuesday since they were out on Monday, instead of scrambling around like chickens trying to figure something out an hour before they had to be at work. And af the parents should have thought of another persons circumstances before they got upset about school being out.

By: ninamommy on 2/17/10 at 10:34

Bsn is completely right!

I am a mother of 2 boys (both under the age of 6) who HAS to work to put food on the table. I have no family in Nashville, as they are all in Georgia. But guess what- I MAKE PLANS. I make plans for snow/ sick/ etc… When you decide to have a child, you have to take FULL responsibility for the child in ALL SITUATUONS!!!

My children’s safety is MY NUMBER ONE PRIORITY. If the school district decides busses can’t run due to ice, then so be it. I cannot believe how some parents are upset that schools close!!!

By: Meko on 2/17/10 at 10:38

I don't understand why the adults are so upset about school being closed. We should always have a backup plan for our children. Whether it's because they are out due to the weather, illness or just scheduled closed days. It's not that hard to have a plan B...even if you don't have 2 adults in the house. What are your plans when you want to go out and party or do other personal things? Is it hard to find child care then? If so, start considering who you can depend on ahead of time.

Maybe some of us should have starting coming up with a plan after they used the 1st snow day... You should also know what your job rules are regarding snow days, etc. I know some places allow you to come in late, use personal time off and things like that. And I've worked places that make you feel guilty for missing days when your child is home for whatever reason. And try to write you up for missing a day (s). So I've been on both side of this story.

What would we do if we got 15-20 inches and they missed more days? Just plan ahead it's less stressful and stop playing the blame game. And no one should be saying someone else was mad for having to watch their own kids and suggesting that they shouldn't have had kids. Now that's just ridculous to even suggest all because of bad weather. Try networking with others in your neighborhood or school district. Maybe the older kids could watch the younger ones or the parents could take turns watching each other kids. But just plan ahead for the next time.

Our kids are watching how we handle things in life and taking notes too. What kind of examples are you teaching them. We always blame famous people and say they are role models...NO....we are their first role models.....are you passing the test?

Have a wonderful day everyone....

By: gdiafante on 2/17/10 at 2:19

TN is such a joke...roads wet? Cancel school. Spitting snow? Cancel school. "Measurable snow" predicted seven days in advance? Cancel school.

Absolutely ridiculous.