Most area schools will be open despite sleet

ALBANY -- Although the bulk of metro Albany area schools plan to be open today for school, a few chose to close their campuses in anticipation of sleet and icy conditions predicted by weather forecasters.

Terrell County School System, Terrell Academy, New Beginning Christian School campuses in Albany and Sylvester and Shellman's Randolph Southern Academy all will be closed today.

Officials at Dougherty, Lee, Worth county school systems said they would remain open today. Representatives at Albany private schools including A School for Children, Deerfield-Windsor School, Emanuel Seventh-day Adventist Junior Academy, Life Christian Academy and Sherwood Christian Academy also planned to remain open.

Calls to Mitchell and Baker county school systems were not returned. Officials at Byne Christian School and St. Teresa's School each late Thursday said they had not made a decision on whether they would open today.

Representatives at Albany State University, Darton College, Albany Technical College, LaGrange College at Albany, Abraham Baldwin College, Georgia Southwestern State University and Bainbridge College all plan to be open for normal hours today. A call to Troy University Albany Site was not returned.

"We're going to continue to monitor the situation throughout the night," Dougherty County School System Public Information Director R.D. Harter said at 10 p.m. Thursday. "Right now, we're planning to hold classes as usual unless we have conditions that present unsafe travel conditions for our students. We would only close schools if it was thought to prevent a dangerous hazard with transportation during morning bus hours.

"If we need to make a decision to close the schools, we'll do it by 5 a.m. (today)," he added.

Lee County Superintendent Lawrence Walters said: "We're monitoring it very closely and we've been in touch with our local officials."

Dougherty County Assistant Director of Facilities Maintenance/Capital Projects Services and Custodial Services Alan Skinner said the 16,234-student school system had prepared for possible "sleet, snow or frozen rain." School staff have been advised to use kitchen salt to combat icy areas.

"(They'll use the in house salt, rather than adding to the tax burden and paying for additional salt," Skinner said. "We'll also have sand ready in dump trucks to provide additional footing at the school bus stops and school bus loops and parent/student drop-off pickup areas."

Due to the cold weather, classroom heating issues have also arisen in the school system. Skinner said in the last two days more than 100 work orders have been issued to check heat at the school system's 36 various sites.

"I haven't heard nothing from parents," Skinner said. "Of our work orders, the majority is personal inconvenience. Our energy conservation directives mandate that heating be set at 70 degrees. Most people when they leave their 78-degree house and leave they're cold. Most of our readings are set at 71 (based on) computer controlled data controlled centers.

"In a federal building, it's supposed to be 68 and our school board allows us to fudge it to 70," he added.

Westover Comprehensive High School parent Jamie Crawford said her 10th-grade daughter, Breanna Vega, has struggled to stay warm all week in classrooms.

"My daughter is wearing a coat down to her calves," Crawford said. "She's extremely diabetic. She cannot afford to be sick. My daughter was born in Colorado and I actually have to tell her to wear a jacket sometimes. For her to be wearing a coat there's something wrong. She never complains about being cold. I don't want her to go to school like this.

"The teachers are telling the students to tell their parents that it's too cold," she added.

Out of the 100 work order requests, Skinner said all of the rooms that were checked were at the 71-degree mandate. However, he admitted "we have had some sporactic inconveniences and we're repairing them as quickly as possible."

"Westover is under major renovation and Albany High is also (under major renovation)," Skinner said. "People are coming and going all the time, construction with doors, draft in the building. (At Westover this week) in the basement, they have walls knocked out for so they could move equipment and personnel."

"It'll settle down because next week we'll be back in the 60s and in between the ambient temperate the outside 60 degrees and the internal temperatures of the buildings they're all gone be toasty warm again," he said. "It's just this unseasonable temperatures that is getting through to everybody."