From Dr. Marc Stout, Head of Gaston Christian School
The recent episode of bad weather has caused us to review our current practices for announcing a school closing. I would like to share a little background and then clarify our protocol.
First, please know that the safety of our students, parents, student drivers, and faculty is always paramount in our decision-making process. We do not want anyone to put themselves, or their children, in harm’s way to come to school. If we choose to have school and you live in an outlying area, please do not hesitate in making a decision that is best for your circumstance. Also, if you feel it is best to have your student driver delay arrival by an hour or two, that is entirely your decision to make.
That being said, we also need to recognize that our county school friends have a whole different set of issues that go into their decision-making process. I had lunch with Jeff Booker, Superintendent of Gaston County Schools, recently, and we discussed some of these concerns. First, Gaston Christian School does not have bus transportation like Gaston County Schools or Gaston Day School. Therefore, we do not have to factor children standing out in single digit temperatures waiting for their bus. Furthermore, Gaston County School buses are integrated so that you cannot cancel one school or area without affecting many other schools. Hence, bad weather in Cherryville or Stanley may have an effect on the whole system. Sometimes these buses (diesel) will not start in cold weather. Mr. Booker has said he has a large number of buses with this problem.
When making our decision about the school closing, we also have to factor the parents who are depending on us to be open. If we close, some have difficulties finding child care, paying for the care, and the logistics of this activity.
When we have inclement weather, we try to get out in front of the decision and begin planning. Whenever possible, we try to make the decision the night prior to the closing. However, that is not always possible. My goal is to have a decision by 10:00 PM the prior evening or by 6:00 AM the following morning (if there were too many unknown issues).
Dr. Richard Rankin, Head of Gaston Day School, and I talk quite a bit during these times. We have had 4:30 AM discussions about the NCDOT’s weather advisory, county school decisions in the surrounding area, and other relevant information. Furthermore, we are also in communication with our Director of Security Mike Robinson who is in contact with Gaston County Police on the status of roads throughout the county. There are many factors that go into our decision-making process.
Once the decision is made, I call Randy Erwin, Communications Director for Gaston Christian School, and inform him of the decision. Mr. Erwin then sends out a text alert and email and also posts the information on the GCS website, all GCS social media and local TV station weather closings/delays lists (WBTV, WSOC, WCNC, News14 and Fox46).
While we get as much input as possible, I understand that any decision about school closing will make some of you very happy, and some of you might strongly disagree. Many of you may have a very different set of circumstances from another large group of parents here at GCS. My responsibility is to make the best decision with the information that I have for the specific situation. Sometimes I feel that I need the wisdom of Solomon to make the right call. Over the years I have made the decision to close school and the weather shifted and it was a beautiful day. On other occasions, we have had school and it was questionable whether that was the best decision.
Please understand that I will err on the side of caution. If we must make a difficult decision, we will do so. If you disagree, you are free to keep your children home or bring them in at a later time.
Finally, please pray for me at these times. I want to make the best decision for the school and appreciate your prayers for wisdom to make those decisions.