Some parents upset Kanawha County schools were open Tuesday

Viewer photo shows a Kanawha County school bus that slid off the road into a ditch on Falls Creek Road near Tornado. The bus was pulled out of the ditch. (WCHS/WVAH)

Most schools in Kanawha County were closed Wednesday, but some parents are still upset that Kanawha County held classes on Tuesday.

The county dismissed early, but one mother whose child was on a Kanawha County special needs bus that slid off the road said she thinks the district needs to consider rural areas more than it does when it decides whether or not to close school.

Billie Jo Elder said she was notified right away that her son Bradley’s bus had slid off the road while on its way to drop him off.

"They immediately eliminated the concern, but at the same time, we thought they shouldn't have had school open in the first place,” Elder said.

Elder said she was told the bus was on a one lane road and trying to get out of the way of a car that was losing control.

"When you don't have much space on these roads and you’re a big bus, it's challenging without the weather, let alone the weather itself,” Elder said.

Kanawha County Transportation Director Brette Fraley said the school system only had one bus incident in the more than 1,200 bus routes that cover more than 18,000 miles a day in the county.

"We're always sorry if a child is involved,” Fraley said. "The truth of the matter is, as he was going up the hill, there was a car coming down. As he moved over, he slid into the ditch,"

Kanawha County Superintendent Ron Duerring said it was a no-win situation.

Duerring said administrators kept schools open but dismissed early because the data had said conditions would worsen around 2 p.m. and about 22,000 students depend on schools for free or reduced-cost meals.

"We are doing the best we can," Duerring said. "We want to keep our kids in school. We want to feed them and make sure they are taken care of and in a warm situation. As I stressed earlier, 84 percent of our kids are on free lunch."

Elder said she understands the district is trying to help those in need, but said administrators need to consider different options such as sending home an emergency food box when the bad weather is predicted.

"There are more ways to better help the families by being proactive. They are putting the needy families at risk that are on the buses. They also are putting all the other kids at risk, too,” Elder said.

Kanawha County Schools said it uses AccuWeather, data from the National Weather Service and pictures from the state Division of Highways to help decide if school should be delayed or canceled.

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