Cherokee County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo posted this message to parents on the school system's website:
The Cherokee County School District has survived this emergency thanks to the patience and support of our parents, employees, partners and countless volunteers.
On behalf of every one of our more than 39,000 students, please accept my thanks, as I have never been as grateful as when we reunited the last of our sheltered students with her parents on Wednesday afternoon.
I know there are many parents in our community today who are frustrated; it’s unlikely that anything I will say will ease this for them. But know this: I and every one of our employees care more about the safety of your children than how many hours they spend in a classroom.
We based our decision to hold classes on Tuesday and the subsequent decision to close early using the most recent weather information available; Cherokee County was not included in the “winter storm warning” area until after the decision to close early already had been made. Had we or our neighboring school systems known the speed or severity of this storm further in advance, we would never have held school on Tuesday.
Our focus since Tuesday morning has been safely reuniting all CCSD students with their families. Our focus today is on assessing when we can reopen schools. Our focus in the days to come will be evaluating our protocols for inclement weather response.
To address several myths being circulated, please know that there was no financial incentive for school systems to hold classes on Tuesday. State funding is based on two attendance count days during the school year, and Tuesday was not one of those days.
Also, please know that school bus routes cannot all be run at the same time – CCSD alone transports 29,000 bus riders home each day, and that process takes more than three hours to complete beginning with hub routes, followed by elementary and then middle and high schools.
I, too, was stranded by the storm and finally made it back to my own home on Wednesday evening. Knowing that our community’s children had to spent the night away from home breaks every educators’ heart including my own, and I am so grateful for the job our staff did to care for these children. Our schools that sheltered students overnight kept them safe, warm, fed and entertained.
And as I drove on the icy roads, I thought of our bus drivers and their skill and strength that guided them to transport children safely home, and of our public safety agency partners who assisted in evacuating stranded buses so that no child or driver had to stay in a bus overnight.
As you might imagine, parents have been sharing their thoughts with us. Some are angry, and we certainly understand. Some have shared thanks for heroism showed by our staff, and those are appreciated more than they know.
The stories are inspiring – the bus drivers and teachers who walked students
home in the snow; the volunteers who used their own vehicles to transport
students and those who brought blankets, food and toothbrushes to sheltered
students; the restaurant owner who fed a bus driver and her students as they
waited for firefighters to bring them home; and the school nurse who sheltered
students at a school, on her way home helped a woman in labor and then went back
to the school to assist with students overnight!
Here is just one of the messages that we received from parents:
“I know it's not over yet and I imagine you are still in the thick of things but I wanted to be sure you had a bright spot of THANKS. I hope that you are hearing about the positives too - I know people are frustrated and just want their 'babies' close to them but the CCSD team is truly doing a great job.
We're lucky to have great forms of communication in today's world - my email inbox is full of notices from each of my kids' schools (MCMS and RRHS) and Mr. Bennett was thoughtful enough to use his Remind101 (set up for scholarship notification) to communicate via text. No complaining about over-communication - it has been key in all this.
Please pass on thanks from a parent - I know those teachers, staff, and administration want to be home with their families too. There are MANY of us that are grateful that in a time of emergency, they stayed with our kids and executed flawlessly on a plan to care for the children. Mine are home and safe, but before they were, the staff at MCMS was fantastically responsive and provided updates letting me know if I couldn't get there, my son was safe, warm, and would be fed.
We are part of a wonderful community. Thank YOU for all you and your team doing.”
We are part of a wonderful community, and my deepest thanks, again, go to our parents, employees, partners – especially our local public safety agencies, and volunteers.