Class Back In For TPS Students; District Explains Decision To Close Tuesday

Tuesday, December 10th 2013, 6:19 pm
By: Emory Bryan

Tulsa Public Schools decided kids will be back in class Wednesday, after three days off because of the winter weather.

The superintendent said Tuesday that the unexpected winter break came down to icy side streets. He didn't want children waiting at bus stops and didn't want buses out trying to pick them up.

Tulsa's fleet of school buses started thawing out Tuesday afternoon - a sign that helped give the district confidence that the weather and the roads would improve enough to have school Wednesday. After three snow days, the pressure was building to get children back in class.

"So what this call came down to is that I don't trust the side roads," Superintendent Keith Ballard said.

Ballard said he's confident he made the right decision for each day, after getting lots of advice from people out driving and looking at the conditions.

"We take into account wind chill, the kind of walk to the bus stop, we take into account whether they can go slower or faster--we don't have hard and fast rules," Ballard said.

12/9/2013 Related Story: TPS Cancels Another Day Of Classes Due To Snowy Side Streets, Frigid Wind

Donnel Young is one of a handful of people with influence on the decision to close Tulsa's schools. He drives an old Chevy Impala, that he says drives like a school bus.

Young drives between schools and follows bus routes to check out the drive. Sometimes, that's in the middle of the night.

The school district has sand and salt trucks and snow plows that have been out treating school property. They concentrate on the driveways used by the buses, like the circle drive at Webster High School.

Young concentrates on the roads to and from the schools that both the buses and the parents will be driving.

"And that's the deal: the parking lot is dry. They've cleaned the parking. You come out here, you've got to get to the parking lot, and that's the hazard, getting to that dry parking lot," Young said.

He said another consideration is that some children will be walking to school and some will be waiting at bus stops. He checks the sidewalks around bus stops and the intersections to see where children might be crossing.

"It's a lot of different factors that we have to consider when we consider whether it's safe to transport people's children in these conditions," Young said.

Another factor, according to Young, isn't TPS or their buses--it's everyone else on the roads and whether they might block the buses or be likely to run into them.

"Our buses themselves, if we were the only ones on the road, we could probably run," Young said.

With temperatures coming back above freezing and thawing things out on Tuesday, TPS made the decision to re-open on Wednesday.