Green: Closing school was right decision

By Lucas Vance lvance@civitasmedia.com

February 1, 2014

WINNSBORO — In light of some public criticism, Fairfield County School District Superintendent J.R. Green defended the district’s decision to cancel three days of school due to the recent winter storm.

School for Tuesday was cancelled because of the different reports for when the winter storm would arrive. Some reports stated the storm would arrive as early as 8 a.m. or as late as noon. The winter storm hit Fairfield County around 4 p.m., but because of the fluid situation, Green said it was in the school district’s best interest to go ahead and cancel school.

“We did that because you don’t want a situation like what happened in Atlanta,” he noted. “It is ironic because those (Atlanta) city, state and school officials are now being criticized because they didn’t cancel schools or city and state offices.”

Schools and offices in Atlanta remained open and when the storm hit the city’s metropolitan area earlier than expected, interstates and highways became gridlocked. Thousands of school students ended up being stranded in the icy conditions for as many as 10 hours.

“Sometimes the weather comes earlier than predicted and we made the best decision we could,” Green said. “I don’t second guess our decision at all, it was the right decision. And given the opportunity to make the decision 10 more times, I’d make it 10 times again.”

Although the winter weather hit Fairfield County later than anticipated, Green stated that risk not to cancel school could have been catastrophic and that the school district would always lean to the side of caution, putting kid’s safety first.

Thursday’s decision to cancel school was based on travel throughout the county. Although the primary roads in Fairfield County were clear, the secondary roads in more rural sections of the county were still hazardous.

The majority of FCSD’s transportation services are located on secondary roads in towns like Blair, Jenkinsville, Ridgeway, Blackstock and Greenbrier.

“We have a significant percentage of our population that do not live in Winnsboro where most of the primary roads are,” Green noted. “We have children that live all throughout the county and we just did not feel safe about traveling on those secondary roads.”

Primary roads are a small percentage of the commute for FCSD students.

“That just is not where most of our students are,” Green said. “We have to look at the situation in a totality.”

Transportation representatives for FCSD drove around various sections of the county between 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to assess the situation before the district made the decision to cancel school.

Director of Transportation Daniel Miller advised Green that the following roads had serious ice and snow issues in Fairfield County: East Peach Road, Smallwood Road, Road 650, Longtown Road, Park Road, Road 41, Countryside Road, Landis Road, Kelly Miller Road, Chappelltown Road, Feaster Road, Pearson Road and Road 99.

Green also took into consideration temperatures falling into the teens Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, which particularly spurred the district’s decision to cancel school for the third consecutive day.

Fairfield County School District’s offices and schools are back operating at regularly scheduled hours today.

Whether a school district makes a decision to cancel school, it is a lose-lose situation either way, according to Green.

“It is the precarious situations that officials are in,” he stated. “When you make a decision to cancel and you don’t get inclement weather people say you shouldn’t have cancelled. But when you don’t make the decision and you have a type of catastrophe, then they say you should have cancelled.”

All in all, Green defended the district’s decision to cancel school.

“A lot of superintendents are battling with that decision (to cancel school), but we don’t put our children in a situation where they’ll be in danger,” he said.

The risk of making a decision to cancel school and not getting inclement weather is a much smaller risk than making a decision to not to cancel and then getting severe weather.

Every year, school district’s plan for a certain amount of winter weather days. FCSD accounted for three makeup days, which are built into the calendar. If the cancelled days are not forgiven by the state, then that’s what the makeup days are there for.

Green felt confident the days would be forgiven, but the state had not make a decision at press time.