D51 did best it could given circumstances

Yes, parents, we know.

Many of us working here at 734 S. 7th St. are parents of elementary school children ourselves. We understand the frustration of piling the kids in the car and creeping over roads coated with black ice only to hear on the way that school had been delayed.

Then, around 10:40 a.m. on Monday came this email advisory from District 51: “If your elementary student is already enroute to school, they will be taken to the school and released at 1:50 p.m. ... If your student is currently at home, keep them home today.”

Parents who don’t rely on buses to get their kids to school wish they had received that last sentence a little earlier in the morning. After making a heroic effort to get their kids to school, parents then had to grapple with an unscheduled early release. Initially, the district told parents to make arrangements to pick up their children as soon as possible before adopting a more flexible position.

“Elementary school parents should call their child’s school if they will not be home in time to meet their children at this earlier time. If you are in this situation, please call and the school will keep your child until you are available to pick up your student.”

If D51 seemed all over the place reacting to Monday’s historic weather event, there’s a good reason. Monday’s ice storm wasn’t predicted. We’ve never had an ice storm warning here — ever — until yesterday. Perhaps the treacherous conditions will make us think twice before poking fun at Atlanta or Charlotte when they contend with black ice.

Southern climates don’t get many blizzards, but they do experience ice storms. We tend to pooh-pooh them as some sort of lesser weather event, but anybody in the Grand Valley who braved Monday’s slick conditions to get to work now knows better.

Meanwhile, District 51 was in a no-win situation. Ground crews and bus drivers were out as early as 4 a.m. Conditions that seemed OK then took a drastic turn at 7 a.m. — around the time students are catching buses or rides with their parents. The National Weather Service didn’t issue its ice storm warning until 8:45 a.m., leaving the district in the unenviable position of trying to manage the massive logistical challenge of a shortened school day.

There was a lot of armchair quarterbacking Monday, but the district reacted as quickly as it could to changing conditions to keep students safe.

The weather looks iffy for the remainder of the week. The district announced a two-hour delay for the start of school today. Let’s consider these delays a minor inconvenience. Some communities are grappling with far worse in this historic winter storm.


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