Some East Tennessee schools close, dismiss early due to severe weather threat

SWEETWATER (WATE) – A number of East Tennessee school systems closed or dismissed early on Wednesday due to the threat of severe weather.

Monroe County and Sweetwater schools were the first in East Tennessee to announce Tuesday they would dismiss early. McMinn County, Athens, Rogersville, and Hancock County schools all closed.

Claiborne, Greene, Hawkins, Jefferson, Cocke, Grainger and Sevier counties all dismissed early as well.

Full school closings list

Officials with Sweetwater City Schools said they watched a webinar from the National Weather Service in Morristown about the weather and said because it’s predicted to hit the area around the time school lets out, it was best to err on the side of caution for the sake of buses.

McMinn County and Athens school officials expressed similar concern. “A scramble to dismiss students at 11:30 to beat the storm is not a stress we want to put on families,” read a social media post from McMinn County Schools. Both school systems said they know the community is sensitive with the November tornado and felt it would be best to allow parents to make an “all-day safe arrangement” for their children.

After looking a the predictions of up to 70 mile per hour winds, hail and heavy rain, Sevier County Schools thought it would be best to dismiss school early.

“One of the things that is most important here, in fact the biggest priority is to make sure that decisions are made in the best interest of students, with their safety always in mind,” said Assistant Superintendent Debra Cline. “We have a wide geographic district here a lot of our buses travel on mountainous roads and along creek banks. We’re just doing this to be proactive so that our students are home before the storm arrives with any intensity.”

More online: Full forecast from WATE 6 On Your Side Storm Team

Because Northview Academy was along the line where the storm was supposed to hit, student drivers were let out at 10:30 a.m. and parents were free to pick up their kids whenever they wanted.

“It kind of makes me nervous because I don’t know what’s going to happen within the next hour, next few hours,” said student driver Caitlin Woody.

Some parents questioned the decision to close school for the threat of severe weather.

“We lived in Kansas for a long time and they never closed school for weather like this so I just kind of think it’s funny,” said Donna Raborn. “I’m sure that people who are from here and live here and have been born and raised here, they’re probably nervous and a little scared.”

Other parents in school districts that didn’t close, questioned if that was the right decision.

“Maybe they should’ve dismissed two hours early and then they would’ve missed the worst of this,” said Knox County parent Peter Aylward.

Schools like Blue Grass Elementary have policies when the weather is bad. Parents received updates about what was happening.

“For us, the back-riders, they’ll pull us up to the walk way and walk them out one at a time. So it’s going to take a little bit longer but they’re trying to keep the students as safe as possible,” said Candace Darnell.

Knox County Schools said they were watching the forecast all day and the decision to let out school is ultimately that of the superintendent.

“They’ve always made good decisions for our kids including the snowy weather,” said Joanne Romeo. “This is early enough,”

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