Schools closed ahead of April 5 severe storm threat: why now?

For the first time in school system history, Bibb County schools closed April 5th ahead of expected severe storms.

MACON, Ga. -- School closings for winter weather are expected in Middle Georgia, but for thunderstorms? That was new to us in the WGXA Newsroom. It was also a first for the biggest school district in the mid-state.

“I'm in my 14th year with the school district, and from my memory, this is the first time we've cancelled schools during a severe storm and tornado possible outbreak.” said David Gowan, Director of Risk Management for Bibb County Schools.

WGXA's weather team knew severe weather was going to happen.

Gowan said closing schools isn’t an easy decision, but we wanted to know why schools were closed this time and for this thunderstorm threat, in an area that deals with storms year-round.

“We had some real concerns about the ability to dismiss children because the danger period that the National Weather Service was telling us was around 2 to 7 p.m.” said Gowan.

Parent feedback was mixed. Some wanted school cancelled while others didn’t.

We met Erika Taylor, a parent of three Bibb County students. She supported their decision to close.

“If it’s a situation where children, parents and teachers are in danger, I do feel like schools should be cancelled." said Taylor. "I know lots of parents do have to work but it’s a situation where it’s the luck of the draw. Which one would you rather choose?”

Gowan says they have a days-long process to follow before a decision is made. It begins with weather briefings with the Macon-Bibb EMA and National Weather Service. From there, they ask, “Is it safe to bring children to school?” and, “Is it safe for children to go home from school?” They also look at after-school programs and athletic events and consider potential infrastructure damage and how that might impact a school day.

In the end, their analysis supported closing schools April 5.

For Taylor, the decision was a much simpler process.

“I would rather my child to be stuck at home than stuck on a bus or stuck at school where i can’t reach my child.” said Taylor.

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