Knox County Director of Schools defends winter weather response

Knox County Director of Schools defends winter weather response

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Several school buses had minor accidents in Knox County while trying to get students home. Several school buses had minor accidents in Knox County while trying to get students home.
Some Karns Middle School students had to be brought back to school as roads were too icy for the buses. Some Karns Middle School students had to be brought back to school as roads were too icy for the buses.
Director of Schools Dr. Jim McIntyre said he didn't expect that much snow, but did his best to get students home safely. Director of Schools Dr. Jim McIntyre said he didn't expect that much snow, but did his best to get students home safely.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - School is closed in Knox County Wednesday, but the winter weather seemed to catch Knox County Schools officials off guard Tuesday as the early dismissal of school led to a number of problems in getting students home.

"We made the decision about 9:30 this morning to dismiss at 11:00, and that's about as quick as we can turn it around with a school system of our size so we make the best decision we can for the safety of our students with the information we had at the time," said Director of Schools Dr. Jim McIntyre.

Several minor accidents involving school buses were reported throughout the day. One happened along Beaverton Road and Gleason Drive in West Knox County. Bus 122 was stuck going up a hill. There were no injuries and parents were advised to pick up their children.

Another accident was along Wayland Road and Pickle Lane in East Knox County. Bus 59 also wasn't able to get up an icy slope, so it was stuck off to the side.     

A Knox County Schools spokesperson says some buses were not able to run due to the icy conditions, calling the bus situation "fluid."

"As we got into some of the later runs of our buses, I think some of the road conditions were challenging for sure," said Director of Schools Dr. Jim McIntyre. "There were some situations where a bus couldn't finish a particular bus route, and so they had to bring students back to the school and we had to work to find ways to get the students delivered home safely."

While several buses stalled or were involved in accidents, officials say no students were injured in any of the incidents.

Some kids had to be brought back to Karns Middle School after many buses couldn't make it through their routes.

"All the bus drivers said was 'There are cars off the road, so we're going to turn back and go back to the school'," said one student.

"There were a few instances where we had to rely on our safety personnel, either our security officers or in some cases, sheriff's deputies to help us deliver kids home safely," Dr. McIntyre said.

He said he was caught off guard by the winter weather.

"The first consideration, and really the only consideration on whether to have school or not is student safety and safety of our staff. So we look at a variety of different factors. We look at the forecast, and this was a storm that, as I went to bed last night after watching the late news, it wasn't forecasted. And so again, we look at that information, we look carefully at all the information available and make the best decision we can at the time we make it," he said.

Dr. McIntyre also thanked school administrators, bus contractors, parents and the Knox County Sheriff's Office.

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