The forecast was a 30 percent chance of a dusting of snow. Every school system in Southeast Tennessee started on regular schedule. Once the snow began, I immediately called Emergency Management, and the forecast was still holding that it would clear soon.
Thirty minutes later, I spoke again with Emergency Services, and it was determined that the snow could set in for the duration. We immediately made the decision to close schools.
That decision created a whirlwind of activity. Here was the timeline for Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014:
- 9:36 a.m. — I spoke with Emergency Management as the snow began; the report called for it to pass soon.
- 10:11 a.m. — Emergency Management updated us with a forecast change; the snow would stick around until 8 p.m.
- 10:13 a.m. — Decision to close school was made after consulting with Hal Taylor, transportation supervisor, about getting the bus drivers back to drive the buses.
- 10:14 a.m. — Doug Moore, public relations supervisor, drafted the press announcement with the school release schedule.
- 10:15 a.m. — Principals were notified of the school closing schedule.
- 10:19 a.m. — I tweeted the closure information for the press, TV channels and other followers.
- 10:25 a.m. — Parents received phone and email notification about the school closing schedule.
- 10:27 a.m. — I arrived at Cleveland High School and worked with assistant principals to release teenage drivers immediately.
- 11:12 a.m. — The first bus began to load children.
As you can see, we accelerated quickly right after EMA contacted us about the new forecast.
Along with the safety of our students, a couple of issues had to be considered with the decision to release at 11:30 a.m.
First, the bus drivers needed time to return and get the buses started. Second, parents needed time to get home or off work to pick up their children.
Our employees remained at their buildings until every child was accounted for and safely at home or at Ocoee Middle School (set up as the county/city response shelter).
One thing is certain. Every single student was safe, warm and fed during this entire process. We take student safety as our top priority every day. We communicated as quickly as possible with every parent in every manner we had at our disposal.
Our administration, faculty and staff rose to the challenge of the events. I am so proud of our employees answering the call of service above self. We love your kids, and we love Cleveland City Schools.
(Editor’s Note: Invitations were issued by the Cleveland Daily Banner to directors of both the Cleveland City and Bradley County school systems to submit guest “Viewpoint” perspectives explaining school closure processes related to inclement weather as they occurred earlier this week. Bradley County Schools Director Johnny McDaniel declined the invitation, saying he felt a front-page news story published in Wednesday’s edition provided a fair and accurate depiction of the process for both local school systems.)