Guest Viewpoint: Criticism of I-SS over school closings, early dismissals is unwarranted

Posted at 7:29 AM on Jan 11, 2018



I typically avoid all controversial issues on social media because that’s simply not how this forum was designed to serve, but tonight, I just can’t resist. I’m sorry, I’m not sorry.

Let’s all take a moment to reflect and practice an essential life habit, seek first to understand. Have you ever been a superintendent who receives a call from emergency personnel or a grief-stricken family, alerting you that one of your students didn’t make it home safely due to inclement weather?

Have you ever been a principal, teacher, or school administrator driving students home in winter weather who couldn’t make it safely themselves?

Have you ever been a bus driver, driving 40 to 70 students (our most prized possessions) over snowy roads, praying that your bus stays on the road and every child enters their house safely?

Unless you work in education your answer to these questions is probably no. As a result, you have little knowledge about the complexity that goes into the decision to close schools.

There are teams of people from the superintendent, central support, maintenance, and emergency management involved. They monitor weather modules and check with surrounding counties to do everything they can to make sure your child makes it home to you.

It’s not easy on any school to dismiss early. On top of losing instructional time, we have to make sure every parent is aware that school is closing early. Schools have to make sure students are all fed and have a safe way home. It becomes pure organized chaos. It’s certainly not ideal for anyone in the school buildings.

The school system also acknowledges that it’s not easy for parents. See, we are parents too, but instead of being able to pick up our own children, we are making sure yours get home first.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a magic weather globe. We can only make the best scientific decision based on what a variety of weather modules predict. Sometimes the call will be too early; sometimes it'll be too late. Heck, sometimes we may be wrong all together. It’s the weather, people. It can change in a second. You live in the South. Our busses aren’t equipped, our drivers are trained, and our teens aren’t experienced enough to drive on snowy or icy roads.

We live in a county that is over 60 miles long, reaching into the foothills. It’s always 10 degrees colder in the northern part of the county than the south. The roads are covered in Union Grove before a flake falls in Mooresville. Despite our geographic disadvantages, we are one school system, serving 21,000 students and their families.

In our opinion, one life lost is too many. For context, speak to a mother who doesn’t get a chance to send her child back to school. Ask a superintendent who prays every time winter weather comes that all his students make it home safely. Ask a principal or teacher who ensures every child gets home. One is too much. As a loyal Iredell-Statesville citizen, family, and friend—I’m sorry, I’m not sorry. Getting your children home to you is much more important to me than risking their lives on dangerous roads. I’ll scroll past your ignorant social media posts and rants. The ones degrading your amazing school system because they made the decision to make sure your child arrived home safely.

Please, if you have a moment, try to seek first to understand. Consider the sacrifices and careful considerations that go into closing schools. Your children’s lives, all 21,000 of them, matter to us! Choose to lift Iredell-Statesville up! Give the district and superintendent a shout out! Thank them for loving your baby! Thank them for the countless hours they put in to making sure your child not only learns but also has the opportunity to continue to grow.

Together, more informed and more compassionately, we can change the chatter about your award-winning school system. As for your snow day: Be present, make memories, build a snowman, read a book, skate on your sidewalks and driveways. Cherish your time.

Janna Payne Sells is MTSS coordinator for Iredell-Statesville Schools.

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