Why some schools let out early ahead of storms

Several East Tennessee schools decided to send students home early due to severe weather on Wednesday, while others monitored the situation.

On Wednesday, 10 local school districts and a number of private schools dismissed students early, ahead of severe storms.

Others that still had school on Wednesday said they were actively monitoring weather conditions.

If there's one thing that unites all school systems, it's their top priority: student safety. But the size and topography of a district may impact how they respond to threats of severe weather.

Sevier County Schools was one of the districts that let out early Wednesday.

Nobody has to remind folks there about the danger of wind.

"Of course, we've had some recent experiences that have been tough," Assistant Superintendent Debra Cline said. "We know the danger that comes from high winds. We know the dangers that our community faced in November."

Nobody in her community will ever forget Nov. 28, 2016, the day high winds blew a wildfire into Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and parts of Sevier County, killing 14 and causing mass evacuations and damage.

However, Cline explained, "this school system has traditionally, through the years, even before the wildfires, always taken that close look at what would be the best decision in the interest of the safety of the students."

Sevier County's more than 14,500 public school students were dismissed from school at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. District officials made the call earlier in the morning.

"We do not want to have buses on the road in the eye of the storm," Cline said. "We actually have well over 100 buses in this county, and we want those buses to have delivered students and those bus drivers have those buses back home or at their location, safely, before the storm hits."

Elsewhere in East Tennessee, districts including Knox County opted to keep kids in school for the day.

A KCS spokesperson told WBIR 10News district officials were monitoring the weather forecast and were ready to make decisions as needed.

"When it comes down to it, there is nothing more precious than the life of a child," Cline said.

Every district acts in the best interest of student safety, and part of that is based on geography.

"We're going to be sending buses out along creek banks, up into the mountains. It's just like it is when we have ice and snow - we want to make sure that we're able to do that in a safe and effective manner," Cline said.

Sevier County Schools alerts parents through phone calls and an email message. Cline said they also post closures to social media, their website and through local news outlets.

© 2017 WBIR.COM


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