Students unexpectedly turned back

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 6, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
Power outages that forced the Rowan-Salisbury School System to cancel classes Tuesday won’t wreak havoc on the district’s schedule.
Spokeswoman Rita Foil said students will not make up the day.
“Since children were already arriving at school, the day is counted as a school day,” she said in an e-mail to the Post.
Foil said about 20 of the district’s 35 schools were without power Tuesday morning.
The school system sent out an automated phone message notifying parents that schools would be closed for the day after some students had already arrived at school.
“There was no communication to our district about power outages until after the buses began rolling early this morning, which is approximately 5 a.m.,” Foil said in an e-mail to the Post. “An emergency Connect-ED message was sent out as soon as possible; because of the power outages the message did not go out as quickly as it would have under more normal conditions.”
Ann Furr said when she pulled up to drop her daughter Micah off at Erwin Middle School she was greeted by an employee holding a pink poster that said “no school.”
“I’m just a little frustrated that I didn’t receive a call until I returned home and there was a message on my answering machine at 7:48 a.m.,” she said. “Is this the best we can do?
“Something went wrong and the breakdown in communication needs to be addressed.”
Furr said delays and cancelations due to winter weather usually come at about 5:30 a.m.
“I would have liked to see a two-hour delay to allow time for more assesment and give everybody a heads up,” she said.
Furr said she tried to call the school system’s central office.
Keith Davidson picked his son Chase up from Overton Elementary on Tuesday morning after getting a call from his wife shortly after dropping him off.
“There’s been a lot of confusion this morning,” he said. “Just poor communication.”
Antonio McCullough said he didn’t find out school was canceled until after he dropped his son Antonio Jr. off at the bus stop for Overton and arrived back home to get ready for work.
“They could have contacted people a little sooner, but I think they handled it to the best of their ability,” he said.
McCullough, who works at Cloninger Ford, had to miss work to stay home with his son.
“We’ll find something to do,” he said. “I’m sure he’s got school work we can work on.”
Sydney Chmiel also had to take the day off from her job in downtown Salisbury to stay home with her children Sophie and Parker.
Furr, the parent who learned classes were cancelled when she took her daughter to Erwin Middle, said she’s lucky she runs a family farm from home, so she didn’t have to call out of work.
“We’re just going to work on the farm today,” she said.
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Car riders’ parents were contacted to pick them up. Students who ride the bus to school were loaded back onto buses and taken home, though not all of them were dropped off.
“It is our district’s policy that school buses that return students home will keep the elementary students on the bus if there is no one at the home,” Foil said.
Foil said those students were taken back to school and emergency contact calls were made to their families.
Overton Elementary Principal Betty Tunks said early Tuesday that her staff would be on hand the entire day with children who do not have parents at home.
North Rowan Elementary Principal Rick Hampton said all of his students were “safe, sound and secure” back at home shortly before 9 a.m. Tuesday.
He said about a dozen car riders arrived before the school system decided to cancel classes, but all of those students were picked up again.
“We were able to stop some of the buses en route and get them turned around,” he said.
Hampton said he doesn’t remember a time in recent history when students were sent back home because of inclement weather.
“It reminds me of Hurricane Hugo,” he said. “All in all, with the suddenness of it, I think things worked out pretty good.”
Foil called Tuesday’s situation “very unusual.”
“This is the first time that an emergency situation of this nature has occurred in our school system,” she said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.