School Responds to Parent Concern Over Winter Storm Decision

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Parents in Greenwood are demanding answers after their kids were stuck at school well into the evening Wednesday during winter weather. Faced with icy roads, Greenwood Schools kept 3,600 students on campus Wednesday instead of letting them out early.

"The bus routes were cancelled yesterday afternoon and they didn't run any busses for the afternoon," Sgt. Eric Pippin with Greenwood Police, whose son attends Greenwood Public Schools told 5NEWS. "I know that kids were stuck at school, including mine."

"I waited on him at the bus stop and then I went and picked him up when we realized the buses were not going to run and then we went and picked him up at Westwood Elementary," Pippin said.

John Ciesla, the Assistant Superintendent at Greenwood told 5NEWS they made the decision to keep students at school after one of their buses had problems on the slick roads.

"We had a school bus during our staging process that actually turned a little bit sideways as he was driving up a hill," Ciesla explained. "We did not have any students on that bus. However at that point we knew it would be unsafe to put children on a school bus and try to transport them home."

Ciesla said students were well-fed and sheltered, but the decision to keep the kids at school upset some parents. One mom told 5NEWS the district should have released the students before the roads became too slick.

"The kids should've been released," Keri McCarthy said."It's just rediculous that they were held because it just seemed like the school was more concerned over a snow day than really the safety of our children."

Ciesla said the safety of the children was the school's top priority.

"We knew we could keep them at our schools where they're extremely safe," Ciesla said. "They're warm. We could give them a good meal if need be. And we were even prepared to stay the night with them if necessary."

Once the school made the decision, Ciesla said the district worked to notify parents immediately. But he said the alert system was overloaded which meant some parents didn't get the message right away.

"So we were just told at 3:30?" McCarthy said. "That just seems so late to finally let parents know that you need to make arrangements to come get your kids because [the schools were] just going to hold them. It just seems ridiculous."

"Sometimes with the mass number of calls it can take 15 minutes for those calls to actually reach the parent," Ciesla explained. "If their phone was busy or if they were on the line when the phone call came in, it starts that process all over again as it runs through the automated system."

Ciesla told 5NEWS that he felt the district handled the situation in the best way possible under Wednesday's winter storm conditions.

Students won't be back in class until Monday, Feb. 25, due to a previously scheduled winter break.