ATLANTA – The Fulton County School System will have a seat at the table when Gov. Nathan Deal convenes his Severe Winter Weather Task Force this month. The panel will review better ways of handling unprecedented weather events such as “Snow Jam 2014,” and how to coordinate the response from a regional perspective.
Fulton Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa is one of only three education officials on the 32-member task force that includes representatives from police, fire, government and the business community.
Other school officials on the task force include Emily Lembeck, superintendent of the Marietta City School System, and Michael Thurmond, who leads the DeKalb County School System.
“I’m honored that the governor has asked me to participate on the task force,” said Avossa. “There are a lot of lessons to be learned, and understanding there are some [decisions] we have control over and others that we do not, but which still impact Fulton Schools.”
He said the recent emergency was centered more on the widespread traffic gridlock, and less on the weather, which significantly impaired the system’s ability to get kids home.
“I’m asked all the time why Fulton [schools] were so impacted, and it’s really because every main artery in Atlanta goes through Fulton,” said Avossa. “And that is something we have to discuss regionally.”
The task force will meet on Feb. 18 and March 4 in a public forum in Atlanta, with the goal of delivering preparedness information to Deal within 60 days of the meetings. While the public will not address the task force directly during the meeting, they are invited to submit questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org for the panel to review.
Communication with state school systems was identified as a priority for the governor, especially during potential weather threats.
“Effective immediately, a storm warning will trigger a message to cellphones in targeted areas, as in the Amber Alert system, and advise against road travel,” said Deal. “We will go one step further with school superintendents by emailing them weather condition updates, so that they have the most up-to-date information when determining whether to close schools.”
State officials maintain they cannot make decisions for school systems to close, however that has been done in the recent past. In September 2005, Gov. Sonny Perdue requested all public schools to close for two days, Sept. 26-27, in order to conserve fuel ahead of a hurricane. While the order was not mandatory, most systems complied.