The wintry weather made it an especially busy day for East Tennessee's largest school district. 1-28-14
"We made the best decision with the information we had at the time," is how Dr. Jim McIntyre answered the question many parents were asking on Tuesday.
With some snow in the forecast, Knox County students headed to school on time, only to be dismissed a few hours later as the snowflakes were flying.
"It was a challenging day," said the superintendent as he addressed the media in a press conference to answer those concerned parents. "The snow came faster and stronger than expected."
Around 9:30 am, school officials announced that classes would be dismissing early: elementary schools at 11:00 a.m. and middle and high schools at 11:45 a.m. Parents were told they could pick up their kids at any time.
The problem was, road conditions began deteriorating rapidly, meaning some buses couldn't even make it to the schools to get students. Some that got loaded and started making their rounds got stuck, either by icy roads or traffic. Some students were brought back to the schools, others waited on buses for other rides.
McIntyre thanked the Knox County Sheriff's Office, Knoxville Police, and Rural/Metro for their help in transported stranded students home. He said school security officers in four wheel drive vehicles also took kids home. In all, he said it took about four hours to get most of the district's 58,000 students home safely. He knew at least two buses were involved in minor accidents, but was not aware of any injuries.
"Our number one priority is the safety of our students and staff," McIntyre said. He called Tuesday a "difficult situation" and said it was a "community effort" between the schools, staff, parents, and emergency workers to get the students safely home. He thanked the parents for their cooperation and their patience.
As of 5:20 p.m., Knox County Schools Chief of Staff Russ Oaks, said the last two children were in route home on a school bus. He said the two attended the STEM Academy and their bus didn't arrive at school until 3:00 p.m. He said that bus then had a mechanical error and the students had to wait 15 minutes until the next bus arrived.
He also thanked the bus contractors, for dealing with a difficult situation on the roads and in some cases, making multiple runs to get students home.
Knox County Schools will closed on Wednesday.
One of the biggest issues with Tuesday's snowfall involved problems with early school dismissals across the area.