Leaky roofs cause problems in some schools
by JOYANNA WEBER and DELANEY WALKER, Banner Staff Writers
Jan 17, 2013 | 1267 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Recent weather in Cleveland and Bradley County have brought both roof leaks and questions of student safety and protocol for schools during inclement conditions.

The roof leaks in both county and city schools were not cause to cancel classes nor to send students home earlier this week, according to officials in both systems.

Paul Ramsey, city school system energy manager, said bus routes were not overly affected by flooding. The only road flooded on the city bus route was Candies Lane. It was determined students could still be picked up with a mild adjustment to the route.

Hal Taylor, director of maintenance and transportation, checks road conditions every morning at 5, according to Ramsey.

Taylor depends on the Emergency Management Agency to alert him in case of inclement weather or other dangers.

“The state does not allow for any kind of inclement weather. We are allowed to close down due to inclement weather,” Ramsey said.

“We try to let folks know we are going to close as soon as possible, but sometimes you just don’t know. We understand arrangements have to be made for childcare and parents need to know before driving their children to school.”

County schools handle inclement weather in much the same way as the city system.

Sammie Humphrey, administrative assistant to the Bradley County director of schools, said the Director Johnny McDaniel bases his decision on whether or not to close school on his communications with the Emergency Management Agency, the Bradley County Sheriff's Office and the school system's transportation department.

According to Ramsey, city schools have an extra 30 minutes built into their school day. This time accumulates into 13 days by the end of the school year. Four of these days are used for teacher and staff development. The remaining nine are reserved for unexpected school closings.

All inclement weather days are taken from the nine provided by the daily extra 30 minutes.

At Ocoee Middle School, dismissal time is changed for the sixth grade during inclement weather. This allows students to wait under an awning and be out of the elements.

Principal secretary Debbie Hysinger said this rain delay plan had been implemented at the school years ago. Seventh-graders wait in the gym and eighth-graders wait for their rides under awnings.

“There have been some issues with leaks at the school, but nothing major,” Hysinger said.

Lake Forest Middle School experienced widespread leaks, according to Principal Ritchie Stevenson. Thirteen of the campus’ 17 buildings had leaks.

Stevenson said the “layout and design creates challenges” every time it rains. While there have been many leaks, there has not been any flooding of the school buildings.

Ramsey said Taylor supervises the cleanup of any leaks in the city school system.

“Maintenance will work with the cleaning service to get all of the water out. There have been a few roof leaks here and there,” Ramsey said. “We try to correct the problem after we know there is an issue.”

Oak Grove Elementary school Principal Buck Watson said the school was not having a problem with leaks, but that the rain had created large puddles toward the back of the school property.

"Our biggest concern is (preventing) students and parents slipping and falling as they are coming into the school," Watson said.

According to Black Fox Elementary Principal Kim Fisher, principals were encouraged by McDaniel to not punish students who were late due to weather conditions.

Fisher said she was concerned about younger students waiting for buses in dark, wet conditions. Students have been fine, she added. However, some parents have said they had problems getting into their driveways because of flooding.

She said the bus drivers had not indicated any problems.

Thursday’s forecast for snow will be handled the same way both systems handled the recent rains. An eye will be kept on visible conditions while they await the expert opinion of Emergency Management. Parents and students will know of any changes in school schedules as early as possible.