Education

Fayette schools superintendent apologizes for handling of school-closing announcement

The thermometer read minus one on the Space Center Storage thermometer, 150 Richmond Road Plaza, in Lexington, Ky., Thursday, January 8, 2015. The temperature dropped below zero for the first time this year. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff
The thermometer read minus one on the Space Center Storage thermometer, 150 Richmond Road Plaza, in Lexington, Ky., Thursday, January 8, 2015. The temperature dropped below zero for the first time this year. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff Herald-Leader

Fayette County Public Schools Interim Superintendent Marlene Helm apologized Thursday for the way notification was handled for cancellation of classes.

Shortly before 8 p.m. Wednesday, school officials said that despite extremely cold temperatures, school would probably be held Thursday.

Then shortly after 11 p.m., district officials announced in an email that classes would not be held.

They did not send an email and text to parents on Thursday morning notifying them again that school would not be held.

"That was a mistake," said Helm.

"Despite our best intentions, this situation was mishandled."

"Earlier yesterday we sent an announcement about our intent to go to school, but said we would make a change if it was warranted," Helm explained Thursday in an email to parents.

"Later last evening, we felt a cancellation was warranted and notified the media, families and employees of the reversal," she said.

"I'm a thoughtful and prayerful leader, and the more I reflected about that decision, I knew in my heart that we could not ask our students to go to school today," she said.

"... Since we were making the call so late in the evening, an email message was sent to families. Because of the lateness, we decided not to send a phone and text message at that hour. We then considered whether to send the typical 5:30 a.m. call and text. Our concern was that if we sent a phone call and text message this morning, we would be waking people who already knew that we had cancelled school, so we included in the email message to families last night that we would not be sending a call this morning."

Reactions from families were mixed on Facebook. Some parents said they did not get proper notification.

One woman identified as Sara Reibslager Tripp said in a post, "Please send out the phone call next time, an email at midnight is not adequate especially when you had just hours previously stated there would be school. Many people got up and got their children ready for school before finding out it was cancelled."

Helm pledged to have a better notification process going forward.

"We are reevaluating our protocol and in the future, when there is any question about the decision, we will delay making an announcement until we have confirmed our position," she said.

"Any time there is a school cancellation or delay, we will send the phone calls and text messages either the day before or in the morning. Regardless of the timing, the calls and texts will be sent every time," Helm said. "I pledge to you that going forward it will be done differently and better. "

After-school and evening school activities on Thursday also were cancelled. Those included KMEA District 7 High School Honor Band Auditions, which were rescheduled for Tuesday.

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