State's top school official weighs in on weather response - CBS46 News

State's top school official weighs in on weather response

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GWINNETT COUNTY, GA (CBS46) -

The state school superintendent said he'd like to see the state more involved in the decisions school districts make when severe weather hits.

"Having been in the school business for a long time, 23 years, these are really difficult calls to make," said Georgia School Superintendent John Barge. "Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you don't, and you've got to be prepared."

Most school districts remained closed on Friday, though Gwinnett County did reopen.

"The decision on whether to have school or whether to close school is one we take very seriously," said Sloan Roach, spokeswoman for Gwinnett County. "We know it's going to affect a lot of people."

The debate over school weather decisions comes after Tuesday's snow and ice stranded buses and hundreds of students were forced to sleep at school.

"What we could do is provide leverage for local school districts, if at the state level we could say, 'We recommend that you shut down,'" said Barge.

When severe weather threatens, Barge said he would like to see school districts hold conference calls with the governor and state officials.

"I think absolutely with these metro superintendents, those that are interested in working together on a plan, that we call them together and begin to do that," said Barge.

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) said state officials failed to take the winter storm warning as seriously as they should have.

"Moving forward it seems sensible to improve communication and coordination across the metro area," said PAGE spokesman Tim Callahan. "How much better things might have been had there been a 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. conference call between the governor, the mayor and all area superintendents."

Callahan said his agency is confident changes will be made as the state moves forward.

"We must do better than this, and we are hopeful that there were lessons learned here," said Callahan.

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