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Despite weather, GCPS officials satisfied with closing decisions

A collection of Gwinnett County School busses remain park behind Glenn C. Jones Middle School for the day after Gwinnett County Schools have been canceled Wednesday due to the winter storm. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

A collection of Gwinnett County School busses remain park behind Glenn C. Jones Middle School for the day after Gwinnett County Schools have been canceled Wednesday due to the winter storm. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

Editor's Note: Gwinnett County Public Schools will be closed on Thursday. For more details, click HERE.

While there were some delays, mainly car riding students being picked up by parents, Gwinnett County Public Schools officials were largely satisfied with the decisions they made on Tuesday regarding the winter storm.

District spokeswoman Sloan Roach said buses running in the Norcross corridor were delayed because of traffic that was “really jammed,” but delivered the last students, about 16 middle schoolers, around 8 p.m. Car riders, though, waiting on parents who couldn’t get to schools, remained later than that. Students did not remain at their schools overnight, Roach said.

“Overall, obviously it wasn’t ideal, but we did get everyone home safely,” Roach said. “I think it’s important that for a lot of our buses, people were surprised that their kids were on time.”

While GCPS initially called off Tuesday’s after-school and evening activities, the decision to close the district on Wednesday was announced at about 5:50 p.m. on Tuesday. It came about an hour after Fulton County Schools announced its district would close, and about two hours after Forsyth and Cobb County Schools announced that they would close.

One reason the district didn’t release early, Roach said, was because district officials factored in elementary school students who could have arrived at home by themselves. She added that a lot of parents checked their children out of school early on Tuesday for safety precautions.

Roach admitted to the Catch-22 notion when it comes to closing the district’s schools — or not.

“No matter what decision you make, you’ll have people who will be happy and people who will be unhappy,” she said. “We have to take that out of it and make the best decision for the district.”

CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks makes the decision to close school after consulting with senior-level staff such as associate superintendents, and the chief operations officer, director of transportation and public safety officials. He also communicates with superintendents in neighboring districts, and Roach said she spoke with her counterpart in Cobb County before the storm arrived.

“It moved faster over there and it hit harder and faster over there,” she said. “We look at what’s happening in Gwinnett. Metro Atlanta is a big area, and you can have different weather factors taking place in different areas, so we want to make the best decisions.”

While the district’s schools were closed, 12-month staff were asked to report to work on Wednesday if it was safe, and they were able. Wilbanks and Chief of Staff Berney Kirkland were among the limited staff who made it to the district office in Suwanee on Wednesday morning.

“Certainly after every situation we always look at what happened and how we could improve,” Roach said. “For the most part, everything worked exactly how they should have.”

At Ivy Preparatory Academy in Peachtree Corners, school officials said students remained at the school past 11 p.m. Ivy Prep principal Joy Treadwell remained on campus to watch over a handful of students whose parents had trouble picking them up because of the weather and traffic.

The charter school for girls, which dismisses at 4 p.m., counts more than 300 students in its enrollment.

The school’s final student was picked up shortly after 11 p.m.

“The girls’ mother was trying so hard to get to her child that she found a neighbor who had three-wheel drive,” said the school’s founder, Nina Gilbert, in a news release. “The student went home on the back of an all-terrain vehicle.”

In addition to GCPS closing on Thursday, Greater Atlanta Christian and Gwinnett Technical College have announced that they will be closed on Thursday.