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State troopers are continuing efforts to reach hundrests of students trapped in schools since early closings Tuesday.
Slippery, snowy roads left students stranded on buses and in schools and prevented parents from reaching them late Tuesday.
The rescue efforts followed Gov. Nathan Deal’s declaration of state of emergency Tuesday for all 159 counties. He addressed the government’s efforts to help unclog roadways and rescue stranded motorists late Tuesday night, and said troopers being sent to schools where students were stranded.
On Tuesday afternoon, some schools and their employees began prepping for students to sleep overnight because no one could reach them on the slick roads.
“We definitely might be pulling an all-nighter here,” said Thomas Algarin, spokesman for Marietta City Schools on Tuesday.
“We have been trying to transport students all afternoon, into evening and up to about 30 minutes ago, Cobb school spokesman Jay Dillon said in an e-mail send to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution at 9:36 p.m. Tuesday. “At this point, the roads have deteriorated to the point that there is no use in further attempting to deliver students home. All buses have either returned their remaining students to school, or will be there shortly. That’s only a relative handful of buses. We dismissed two hours early and were able to safely transport the vast majority of elementary students, and most high school students.
Dillon said the difficulties came in taking middle school students home during the last bus run. “As a result, many students were returned to schools where they were picked up by parents. Parents are still picking up students. In cases where the parents are unable to get to the schools, the students will remain at the schools until they are able to be picked up. Fortunately, they will be safe and warm, have facilities, and, if they stay overnight, will be fed dinner and breakfast. [It’s] not an ideal situation, but at least they are supervised, safe and accounted for.”
Kim Sherman, the mother of three North Fulton students, called the school system’s handling of the weather a “debacle.”
Sherman said she was disappointed in the school system because officials had been discussing the weather since the night before. And when the decision to close was made, her only notice was at the last minute, by an e=mail delivered at 1:45 p.m., as school was closing. She got no text messages or phone calls, and only saw the email after she got home the first time, with her girls. She later ventured into traffic again to rescue a few other students who were stranded in school or walking from it.
“It’s just ridiculous,” Sherman said. “I have lost complete faith in my Fulton County school board.”
At North Atlanta High School, students were still waiting for buses at nearly 10 p.m., according to Atlanta schools spokeswoman Kimberly Willis Green. According to the school district’s Twitter feed, food was on the way. Frustrated parents said school officials had been promising to feed students for hours.
Roads were in such bad shape that Marietta City Schools and Cherokee and Bartow counties north of Kennesaw suspended school bus service, asking students to remain at school until parents could pick them up.
“They seriously miscalculated,” said Marcus Reed, who drove 90 minutes over five miles of side roads to fetch his eighth-grade son Payton and sixth-grade daughter Marlyn from Sandtown Middle School in Fulton County. “I know every school day is precious, but they shouldn’t have had school today.”
At Keheley Elementary School in Cobb County, Principal Liz Jackson stayed behind to care for two kindergartners whose parents had been trying for hours to reach them.
Jen Hancock, a mother of two in North Fulton, said she was “very annoyed” by the school district’s last-minute decision to close early.
She said she was irritated that school officials cancelled school in early January because of unusually cold temperatures, “but we don’t cancel school when it’s snowing, sleeting and freezing.”
Dunwoody resident Kate Wolfe, who works in Tucker, said she left work early to pick her 3-year-old son up from daycare, but bumper-to-bumper traffic prevented her from arriving for nearly three hours.
“It’s frustrating,” she said. “I used to live in L.A., and this traffic today ranks up there with the worst I saw there.”