Cold weather causes few problems for schools

Charles Warner Editor

January 8, 2014

UNION COUNTY — Temperatures were in the single digits but that didn’t keep students, faculty and staff from getting to school this morning.

An arctic air mass that settled over Union County and the rest of the western Carolinas Monday caused temperatures to fall well below freezing this morning. Even though temperatures were forecast to drop into the single digits, the administration of the Union County School District decided to have the schools operate on their regular schedule today though with steps taken to ensure students were safe and warm.

Those steps included having the district’s buses get cranked up earlier to ensure they would be able to operate in the frigid temperatures. In announcing the decision to have the schools operate on their regular schedule, Superintendent Dr. Kristi Woodall said Monday that the district buses had never been cranked up in weather this cold before.

Woodall said this afternoon that only four of the district’s 37 buses wouldn’t crank. Of the 31 that did, Woodall said all were able to operate normally except two that developed problems with frozen gear shifts. She said one of the buses with a frozen gear shift did not have students on it when the problem developed. The other, which was traveling its route in Santuc at the time, did have students on it. While it was not able to complete its route, Woodall said it still had heat to keep the students warm until they could be transferred to another vehicle and transported to school.

In order to help keep students warm and safe, buses stopped at each student’s house rather than have them stand along the side of the road.

Sims Middle School Principal Mickey Connolly said that while this meant some students arrived later than normal, it did not prove to a problem.

“We knew we would have a few late buses because they were going to stop door to door,” Connolly said this morning. “We were prepared for the late buses, but since then everything has been running smoothly. We’ve treated today like a regular school day.”

Another step the district took was to lower the thermostats to reduce energy consumption in the face of what Woodall said Monday was expected to be increased demand city utilities. Parents were urged to dress their children warmly, not only for the trip to school, but for when they were in the classroom.

Woodall said this afternoon that she visited several schools and found that while the halls were cool, the classrooms were warm.

Foster Park Elementary School Principal Barbara Palmer said that the student at her school were not only warm, but fed, and that some said they were glad to be there because their own homes were without heat.

“We’ve been fine,” Palmer said this morning. “The kids are warm and we had a hot breakfast for them. A couple even said their heat had gone out at home so they were glad to be here.”

Buffalo Elementary School Principal Melissa Inman said that in spite of the cold weather things were going well.

“The day has been very enjoyable,” Inman said. “Pretty much like most days, despite the cold weather. We have a warm building and some great food.

“I would like to thank our maintenance and transportation department along with the cafeteria staff,” she said. “They have worked hard to keep everyone warm, provide a safe trip to school, and to feed everyone a good hot breakfast and lunch. The teachers are working hard as they continue to provide your child with the best education possible.”

Lockhart School Secretary Linda Chastain said the school had experienced no problems.

“We haven’t had any cold-related malfunctions, our heat is working fine,” Chastain said. “We’ve had students coming in late — the parents brought them in — but everything is going fine.”

Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at cwarner@civitasmedia.com.