Snow jam leads to serious traffic jams after schools announce early dismissal

Parents blast school leaders for late decisions as students get stranded at schools



NORTH FULTON, Ga. -- The snow had barely begun sticking to roads and sidewalks when parents took to social media sites to heap criticism on the Fulton County School System for not dismissing students early ahead of Tuesday’s snowstorm.

“How can you say students come first when you put the safety of students in danger,” tweeted a Milton High School student. He joined thousands of other Twitter and Facebook users who took to the airwaves to blast the school system for not calling for early dismissal until mid afternoon.

While most systems across the region, including Forsyth, Cherokee and Cobb, posted early dismissal notices before noon, Fulton County Schools waited until nearly 2 p.m. to make the decision (for a 1:45 p.m. dismissal).

Parents questioned the delay since the snow had been predicted for days and Fulton County had been under a winter storm watch since the previous evening.

By 2 p.m. when the early dismissal was announced, gridlock was already in place. Parents had been checking their kids out of school since the snow began falling before noon, creating traffic nightmares near most schools. At 4 p.m., hundreds of students were still waiting on buses to get home. Fulton’s transportation fleet relies on staggered dismissal times since most buses run at least two routes.

Reports of traffic jams along Georgia 400 and most of the main arteries in North Fulton were abundant, caused not only by school traffic but businesses closing early as well. Before 1 p.m., area police departments had stopped responding to minor traffic accidents, and had put out alerts to remain off the roadways.

School officials could not be contacted for comment on why it took so long for the early dismissal notice, but posted on the Facebook page that “the weather pattern has come in faster than initially forecasted.”

The message included statement that “student safety is our priority”; a claim that many parents apparent took issue with.

“Student safety is your priority? Are you kidding me? You have hundreds of parents out on terrible roads heading to schools and you give five minutes’ notice?” posted an angry parent.

More than 500 comments, the vast majority negative, were posted to the school system’s Facebook over a two hour window surrounding the early dismissal posting. Many were still waiting for the kids to get home.

“My three middle schoolers are still stuck at school and my hIgh schooler had to abandon his car after an hour and a half and walk the rest of the way home,” posted one upset parent. “ You guys missed this one completely. I also only got the call at 1:43 p.m.. I'm wondering when my kids will get home as I look at the snow continuing to pile up outside?”

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