Whenever a long break approaches, we all have a tendency to want to take it easy and coast through the last few days of school. But at Atlanta Public Schools, we have been gradually changing that mindset so that we keep focused on the education of children every single school day … even with everyone eager for the Spring Break.
That became evident over the past 24 hours as we were challenged to consider closing schools following the fire that caused the collapse of a portion of I-85 near Buckhead on Thursday night.
Upon hearing the news, our crisis team – comprised of staff from academics, operations, safety and security, communications and transportation – immediately assembled to determine the safest and most prudent response in Atlanta Public Schools. As you know, we determined we had the team in place and the ability to open schools on time this morning.
The Transportation Department, led by John Franklin and his team of mechanics and bus drivers, worked through the night to ensure buses were ready and in place. For example, 23 buses assigned for the North Atlanta Cluster were moved to the high school campus late in the night, and bus drivers arrived early to handle their routes.
Our Safety and Security Department, led by Dr. Marquenta Sands Hall and Police Chief Ron Applin, had their officers ready to assist with traffic and other issues.
As a result, Atlanta Public Schools completed a full school day in as normal fashion as possible considering the circumstances. In fact, the on-time percentage for our morning bus routes generally compare with the percentages on any other school day as this chart shows.
While buses for some clusters like North Atlanta arrived a bit later than normal, that was expected.
So I really want to praise Mr. Franklin, Dr. Hall and Chief Applin and all of their crews and officers for stepping up on the last day before Spring Break. A big thank you to Board Member Nancy Meister, who represents North Atlanta, not only for her guidance and support but also for working with me all night to ensure we were coordinated. Another thank you to Mayor Reed and Governor Deal for working closely with us to keep students and staff safe. And a final thank you to all of the teachers, staff, students and families for making the day a full school day.
But the work continues, especially since the collapsed portion of I-85 complicates routes along the interstate for some weeks.
We have asked the city to provide assistance with traffic control at Northside Drive near Mount Paran as buses leave North Atlanta High around 1:45 p.m.; at Peachtree Battle near E. Rivers Elementary at 2:30 pm..; Northside Drive near Sutton Middle at 3:30 p.m. and areas around Jackson, Brandon and Smith elementary schools as they dismiss at 2:30 p.m. The city has agreed to help with those routes we’ve identified.
Although Spring Break is ahead, our Transportation Department will be handling bus routes for our second annual Spring Break Academy, which starts Monday, April 3, and then consider route revisions for the regular school days starting Monday, April 10, and for field trips for the rest of the year.
With a crisis averted, I actually have a renewed sense of hope as we move into Spring Break. A hope that we have made significant progress with the operations of Atlanta Public Schools that we could deal with an issue like a collapsed interstate and move forward without looking back.
Enjoy the Break!