The sun came out Thursday morning and began to melt the roads, though many of the side streets remained covered with ice.
With another cold night in the forecast, Cobb Superintendent Michael Hinojosa canceled schools for today, and postponed a Thursday night Board of Education meeting to Monday.
“We’re going to wait for the sun to do its job,” said Randy Scamihorn, vice chair of the school board.
Randy Weiner, chairman of the Marietta Board of Education, reported that school would also be closed for Marietta students.
In both districts, it wasn’t too
early for parents, teachers and school officials to thank what some called the most under-appreciated members of the school system — the bus drivers.
“This was an absolute magnanimous to somewhat exemplary performance of teachers and bus drivers,” Scamihorn said. “They didn’t think in terms of basic human needs. Those bus drivers, men and women alike, besides going without food and sitting there for hours, dealing with the hungry kids who were confused and had to go to the bathroom.”
State Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell), who has children at Smyrna’s Russell Elementary and Mableton’s Floyd Middle, spent the night with stranded school bus in a parking lot off of South Cobb Drive.
After leaving the Capitol at about 1 p.m. Tuesday, Wilkerson made his way out of the city along the back roads and didn’t come to a complete halt until he reached the Cobb County line.
Wilkerson made it through traffic and reached a Publix at the corner of South Cobb Drive and the East-West Connector, where he saw a Cobb school bus. He walked over to the bus, and was blown away by what he saw.
Inside, there were five special-needs students, waiting with their bus driver.
“I was more than impressed. It’s tough. You are dealing with potential medical issues, a lack of food and trying to get these kids home,” he said.
He noticed dozens of people had taken shelter and were asleep in a nearby Mexican restaurant. By midnight, the bus had left, but another one sought safety in the parking lot.
This second bus had two special-needs students on it, a bus driver and a staff member.
A police officer came by and offered to shuttle the students to a hospital or the Smyrna Community Center. The bus driver was in contact with the children’s parents, Wilkerson said, and everyone remained calm.
Wilkerson returned to the Mexican restaurant at sunrise, and when he came back to the parking lot, the bus was gone. The mother of one of the students called him at 7:30 a.m., just as her child got home.
He didn’t hear from the bus drivers and returned to his home after 8 a.m.
A day later, he was still thinking about the drivers.
“I was impressed with the job they do,” Wilkerson said. “They don’t get paid a lot they are the first ones who feel the pain when there are budget cuts. Thanks are in order for the principals, the teachers, and as hard as it looked for them, it was twice as hard to be on the road in the ice with kids in your hands.”
After this ordeal, he and Scamihorn both said they think a gift was in order for the county’s more than 1,000 bus drivers.
“I do believe the board will discuss how to recognize the actions and deeds that all of our staff performed above and beyond the call,” Scamihorn said.
While he already had a strong faith in the county’s schools, the actions of all school employees reinforced Scamihorn’s faith in Cobb schools, he said.
Teachers make it home after spending the night in school
Marietta High School Principal Leigh Colburn made it home Wednesday at about 3 p.m., after spending more than 40 hours at her high school. The last student left just after 1 p.m. after spending the night, and Colburn drove home, changed clothes, and drove back to school to watch students sledding outside.
Before she arrived home for the night Wednesday, Colburn said her inbox was filled with kind notes from parents, thanking her and the high school staff for taking such good care of their children.
Not one parent sent an angry email.
“People in the school had a good attitude and a good spirit,” Colburn said.
Scamihorn said he saw the same thing at Lewis Elementary School in Kennesaw.
After leaving a doctor’s appointment just after noon Tuesday, Scamihorn inched his way north for six hours in his car, before pulling off at Lewis.
There were about 40 students still at the school, with parents coming in and out picking up their children. Scamihorn stayed and helped Principal Christi Kee and her staff manage the students, who ate snacks and watched a movie for a few hours. He then decided to walk the 1.5 miles home.
As he walked, he spoke with worried parents, separated from their children by miles of traffic and helped them remain calm.
“I told them educators are educators because they love people,” Scamihorn said. “They want to teach, they love kids, and they are professionals. When their children are at schools, teachers will treat them like their own kids. That’s what teachers do. The first place I’d ever want my kids or grandkids if they were stranded would be with teachers at their school.”
Closing schools is superintendent’s call
By Thursday morning, he had received more than two dozen emails and phone calls from parents who were upset schools had not been closed Tuesday. He apologized, although the decision to close schools is made by the superintendent, not the board.
Some residents noticed the difference in how Marietta Superintendent Emily Lembeck and Cobb Superintendent Michael Hinojosa handled the crisis. Lembeck spent the night at her desk while Hinojosa left for home mid-afternoon Tuesday.
Writing on the MDJ’s Facebook page, Priscilla Hayes Smith said:
“After reading the MDJ this morning, it made me realize the difference between the Marietta school superintendent and Cobb County school superintendent. Marietta’s stayed at her office throughout the ordeal to help in any way she could. Cobb’s left mid-afternoon on Tuesday and arrived at his home in Smyrna two hours later. Very telling on priorities of each of them.”
As the sun fell Thursday evening and ice began to refreeze, neither superintendent could speculate as to whether or not extra days would be added to the end of the school calendar to make up for the lost class time this week.
“Our first priority is to get the kids in schools to get a good education, but we need to ensure their safety,” Lembeck said.