Parents respond with frustration, confusion after Roanoke City only closed middle, high schools

After backlash, Roanoke City Public Schools explains reasoning behind partial closure

ROANOKE, Va. – Tuesday’s winter weather closed many local schools, but one district received a lot of pushback for its decision.

Roanoke City Public Schools issued a two-hour delay just after 5 a.m., but once the snow started to pick up, the district canceled classes for middle and high school students. Elementary school students were to remain in school.

This decision caused backlash, including from angry parents who took to social media to voice their frustration and concern, some even calling the school system’s decision inconsiderate and dangerous.

“...timed the opening with the start of the snow, rather than getting the children to school before the snow started," said David Barudin, a Roanoke city school grandfather.

Some parents said the school system’s move put cars and buses on the roads during the worst of Tuesday’s winter weather.

“Had the kids come at 7:45, everything would’ve been okay,” said Mike Wilson, a Roanoke city school parent.

Another Roanoke city school parent, Erin Leftwich, said, “The roads were pretty messy. I slipped around a little bit.”

“Ultimately, it would’ve been safer to keep the kids at a regular schedule and make everybody come before the snow started, than to line us right in the target of when it was the worst point,” said Eric larsen, a Roanoke city school parent.

Dozens of parents took their frustration to facebook ... with comments on the district’s post, like “...The blatant disregard for the safety and welfare of our staff and students is nauseating...” and “...Remember that some of the kids don’t get dropped off and have to stand outside in cold weather. A little consideration goes a long way!”

Parents’ concerns weren’t just about safety, but also the timing of the cancellation.

“We got absolutely nothing. So, we showed up this morning, 7:45 like we always do, had to turn around and go back home," said Wilson.

Some were seeking clarity after the first snow of 2020, with a lot more winter still to come.

“I don’t know where the protocol went because there was a lot of confusion. I can’t be the only one who was confused this morning," said Wilson.

A spokesperson for Roanoke City Public Schools gave some insight into the decision to close only some schools during Tuesday’s snow.

The sudden change in road conditions was to blame for the decision to only close city middle and high schools, according to Justin McLeod, director of marketing and public relations for the school district. Elementary schools in the city remained open.

According to the statement sent to 10 News, some elementary students were already at school, while others were still on the bus when road conditions took a turn for the worst. Because of this, school officials deemed roads too treacherous for students to be sent home. Instead, McLeod says the district is anticipating the weather to let up, allowing those students to be released at their normal time.

Below is the full statement:

Weather calls are always difficult. When road conditions changed suddenly, the District decided to close the middle and high schools because those students hadn’t been picked up yet. Most of the elementary students had already arrived at school. It wasn’t safe to dismiss them in these weather conditions. The decision was then made to keep elementary students at school. They will dismiss at normal time since we anticipate improving weather and road conditions this afternoon. We had a few elementary buses that were still on the roads during the snow squall. Drivers were told to pull over in a safe location until conditions improved.

Justin McLeod, director of marketing & public relations

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