Icy conditions lead to many school delays

SUWANEE — Fourteen Gwinnett County schools reported absence rates of at least 10 percent on Thursday, when icy conditions caused the school system to delay the start of classes by two hours.

It was the first time Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said he had ever delayed the starting time, as opposed to canceling classes for the day. The school system had planned to delay classes during the September 2009 flood, but rising waters caused the district to call off classes instead.

Wilbanks told the board the decision to delay or cancel school for the day seems complex, but it’s actually simple.

“The question is, is it safe to transport students to school?” Wilbanks said. “If the answer is yes, you have school. If the answer is no, you don’t have school or you have a delay.”

District officials decided early Thursday morning to delay classes for two hours so all students would be reporting to school during daylight hours. Elementary and middle school students were released at their scheduled time. High school students, who were supposed to have an early release day because of final exams, were sent home a little earlier than their normal release time.

Although icy conditions developed Wednesday evening, GCPS spokeswoman Sloan Roach said district officials waited until early Thursday morning to make a decision about when to open schools so they would have the best information possible. District procedures call for a decision to be made by 6 a.m., and she said most media were notified of the delay before 5 a.m.

“We want to have the best information possible ... because this decision does affect so many people,” she said.

Buford City Schools and Barrow County Schools also delayed the start of classes Thursday.

The schools with absence rates of at least 10 percent were Rockbridge Elementary, Centerville Elementary, Berkmar Middle, Starling Elementary, Benefield Elementary, Minor Elementary, Taylor Elementary, Patrick Elementary, Meadowcreek Elementary, Winn Holt Elementary, Monarch School, Beaver Ridge Elementary, Ferguson Elementary and Kanoheda Elementary.