Metro Public Schools responds to criticism of late dismissal call

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Representatives with Metro-Nashville Public Schools addressed criticism of the district’s late decision to dismiss students on Friday due to winter weather.

According to Metro-Nashville Schools Chief Operating Officer Chris Henson, the district’s trained inclement weather team was out at 3 a.m. to monitor roads. At 5 a.m., the team reported roadways were safe for school bus travel.

“We made the best decision with the information we had,” Henson said. “We will look at this as a learning experience. Anything we need to change in our processes and protocols, we will.”

Once reports indicated that roads were affected, the district decided to dismiss early using the three-tier system since buses for the district serve all elementary, middle and high schools.

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“Hindsight is always 20/20. If we knew weather conditions were going to worsen and were not going to follow forecast, we would have made a different decision,” Henson explained.

High school students were dismissed at 10:30 a.m., elementary students at 11:30 a.m., and middle schoolers at 12:30 p.m.

“We understand the frustration, it’s a tough decision,” added Metro Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph.

Dr. Joseph also delivered a message online and by voicemail later Friday, apologizing to parents for what transpired.

Dear MNPS Community,

I am grateful to report that all of our students have been transported back home safely after this morning’s decision to dismiss early. I also want to sincerely apologize for the frustration and concern that today’s weather incident caused many of you.

Our inclement weather team was out traveling the roads across Davidson County starting at 3 a.m. this morning. By 5 a.m., they felt confident that road conditions were safe for bus travel. They were also watching weather forecasts closely, which indicated that the snow would fall further south and not impact Davidson County in the way that it has.

School closure decisions are primarily made based on whether or not we feel like it is safe for us to transport the 50,000 students who ride on our school buses every day. This morning, our operations staff made the best decision they could with the information we had at the time.

When the snow began to fall around 6:30 a.m., it quickly became apparent that the weather was not following the forecasts and that road conditions were becoming hazardous. By about 7:30 a.m., we began putting processes in place to dismiss students early. Students could not be dismissed immediately because we have approximately 750 school buses that make multiple routes to transport students of different grade levels. We also needed to give ample notice to families so that caregivers would be there when students were dropped back off.

These decisions are never easy. In retrospect, we could have started school late to give us more time to assess the situation. Using a two-hour delay is something we will certainly do in the future if this same situation occurs. For today, absences will be excused for any families who chose to keep their students at home. As a reminder, athletic events for Saturday have been canceled as well.

Student safety is always our top priority. Going forward, we will more intentionally err on the side of caution. At the same time, we will remain thoughtful about not closing unnecessarily causing us to lose valuable learning time.

I hope you stay safe and warm as we head into the weekend.”