Parents angry at delayed school closures

A water main break has closed Northland Drive.
A water main break has closed Northland Drive.

AUSTIN (KXAN) -Round Rock ISD Superintendent Steve Flores sent an apology email to parents whose children were stuck at school after his district ran buses and then decided to cancel classes.

He starts the email by saying it was “fully understood that as a result of our late notifications, many of our dedicated employees and students were already making their way to school and work in deteriorating driving conditions.”

Flores went on to explain any time severe weather threatens Central Texas, Round Rock ISD confers with local emergency management and law enforcement agencies throughout the evening and morning hours. The district’s transportation department scouted road conditions across the district. However, as the buses began their routes the first rainfall began.

Flores’ email said Round Rock ISD took part in a weather conference call at 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. and the information available at the time led him to believe roads would be clear and safe for travel by the time students started their commutes. The superintendent closed his email by taking full responsibility for any inconvenience and subsequent travel hazards staff and students may have experienced.

But Round Rock wasn’t alone. Many school districts including Dripping Springs, Eanes, Lake Travis, Leander and Pflugerville didn’t make the decision to delay classes until elementary students were already at their bus stops. Before district decision makers called off school, many of those kids had already been dropped off at school.

Facebook and other social media sites lit up with complaints from parents who braved the icy roads not once, but twice.

“I think the Pflugerville School District did not take the proper precautions for kids in the buses when they picked them up early,” one parent said. “They didn’t call a delay until 8 o’clock, which was about 30-40 minutes after the younger kids got on the bus. Then, of course now they’ve canceled it, so means all the parents have to come pick the kids up. I think it was irresponsible.”

“We apologize for the late decisions today regarding the status of delaying or closing schools,” a statement from Pflugerville ISD said. “After taking into consideration the best information available at the time, a decision is made. Today, conditions worsened after the initial decision was made, and the district changed course as soon as it became apparent road conditions were unsafe.”

Gary Craig, a Round Rock parent, dropped his children off at Blackland Praire Elementary School at the usual time on Tuesday, then had to go back to pick them up.

“I dropped them off, saw the email that there was a delay, and then by the time I picked them up, it had been canceled.”

His son said he was able to watch a movie and make a Valentine while he waited to be picked up.

Students who were dropped off were being supervised, according to district officials. They were to be fed lunch and any who were not picked up by parents will be bused home at the regular time.

“I woke up and I told [my daughter] we got to go because they’re saying give yourself time,” said Larry Edmondson. “As I’m getting [to the school], you know, the teachers were there they’re taking them in. And as I drove away I got an email saying: ‘two-hour delay’. So I said nope, I’m not going back.”

Edmondson says the roads were already slick by the time he got to work. His daughter, who is in fourth grade at Jollyville Elementary School, stayed at school until about 3:30 p.m.

“The school called and said don’t worry about being here at 2:45, we’ll take care of the kids that normally are there at the after school program. So I said thank you,” said Edmondson.

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