Snow days are mounting for Sevier County schools

Jan. 11, 2014 @ 11:43 PM

Students in Sevier County schools received an extended winter break thanks to the severe cold and icy precipitation early in the week.  

After schools were closed Monday through Thursday, it was announced that schools would open two hours late on Friday, but a last-minute decision was made Friday morning to keep schools closed.

"When the roads were checked yesterday afternoon, it looked like things would be good to go with a two-hour delay," Assistant Superintendent of Sevier County schools Debra Cline said Friday. "This morning, there was some additional black ice on some of the roads, particularly in the Gatlinburg and the mountain areas, and we were advised that it would be in the best interest of the safety of the children to just go on ahead and close schools."

Cline said that during months when inclement weather is a possibility, Superintendent Dr. Jack Parton receives information from various sources to advise him on whether schools should be closed, including law enforcement and crews from the school system who will be out checking road conditions.

Generally, there is not a hard deadline for the determination as to whether or not the schools will be closed, Cline said, but under normal circumstances, Parton will try to make the decision in a timely manner to get the information out to parents and employees.

"We have several ways to get that information out in a quick way," Cline said. "We have an automated phone system that we actually are able to make phone calls to the homes of the students, as well as our staff members. We put notices on our website and contacted radio and TV stations."

Because of the predetermined delay on Friday morning, the school system had more time to gather information about the conditions of all the roads in Sevier County before making a late determination that the schools would close.

"A decision coming when it did might have inconvenienced some people," Cline said. "We try to do it in advance, but when you can't, you just have to take the best interest in the safety of the children to try to make the right decision."

The school system has 13 snow days built into the schedule. With one such day being used in the fall semester, and five used so far at the beginning of the spring semester, seven remain available for the duration of the school year.

If the schools go over the 13 built-in days, make-up days would need to be completed at the end of the school year.