NORTH FULTON, Ga. – The frigid cold last week tacked an extra day onto the long winter break for Fulton County School System students, as single-digit temperatures made normal operations too difficult and potentially dangerous for students and staff.
Fulton Schools officials could not recall ever closing schools based on temperature alone, but made the decision based on factors including bus operations, heating schools and keeping kids safe at bus stops.
“This is the first time in memory where extreme temperatures played a part in cancelling school,” said Fulton Schools spokesperson Susan Hale. “[But] what most people don’t know is that it’s more complicated than just being too cold for students to be outside, although that is certainly considered.”
In a system of 100 schools, 93,000 students, 14,000 employees and 800 buses, there are operational issues to consider, she said.
“Most of our buses run on diesel, and in extreme low temperatures, diesel fuel behaves more like a gel than a liquid, making it more difficult to get the buses started and running properly,” said Hale.
Adding to the situation was the fact that the buses sat idle for more than two weeks during the winter break, which began Dec. 20, 2013.
While some parents took to social media to grumble about another day home with cabin feverish kids, most parents welcomed the day off, said Hale. She said the system’s Facebook page had 245 “likes” after the announcement of the closing.
“That’s a record for us – most of our status updates get only a few likes,” laughed Hale.
She also gave kudos to the facilities staff that worked night and day to make sure everything was up and running when the kids returned on Jan. 8
“Our custodians made sure buildings would be ready. Our maintenance team was quick to troubleshoot any potential issue, and our [transportation team] literally worked around the clock for the past week to make sure buses would start and be warm for students,” said Hale.
Weather days are built into the school calendar, and the Jan. 7 cancellation will not have to be made up.