CCPS notes tornado efforts

Published 12:08 pm Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Buses transporting Charlotte County Public School students home were routed back to school in light of a tornado warning affecting the surrounding areas on Feb. 24 — the same day tornados touched down across the state.

According to Division Superintendent Nancy Leonard, confirmation was received that all students had safely arrived home by 7:30 that evening.

“When the tornado warnings sounded at dismissal time, I held the buses so that our children and drivers could remain in safe shelters and not be traveling on the roads with tornados in the area,” Leonard said.

“Two hundred Eureka students had already dismissed and were en route to Randolph-Henry (RH). We unloaded those children at Randolph-Henry and they were sheltered in the cafeteria of R-H. The cafeteria at RH is a designated fallout shelter for Charlotte County. We had all students remain at school until the tornado activity stopped in the county and all roads were safe for bus travel.”

Although Leonard said consideration was given to closing the schools early, she felt the safest decision would be for the children to remain in the sturdy school buildings until the tornado had cleared the area.

Leonard said when making the decision to keep the students at school, she thought about children who may have been headed to empty houses or vulnerable homes.

“We had a few parents who could provide supervision and shelter at home and they chose to pick up their children from school, which I completely understand,” she said. “However, I knew that I was responsible for the safety and well-being of all children, including those whose parents would have a difficult time getting home with an early dismissal.”

She said the administration remained in constant communication with each school building during the storms through technology, including Internet-based phones, hand-held radios, and cell phones.

“We monitored the tornado activity on our weather programs and when the activity neared the communities where the schools were located, we gave notifications for the schools to shelter in place and assume the designated safe locations in the buildings and positions as we had practiced in preparation for tornado events,” Leonard said.

She said the elementary schools provided activities and teachers aided the children while being sheltered by singing songs.

“Some parents and grandparents also came to the schools and remained there for shelter. They were terrific in helping with the children and we were glad to be able to shelter them as well,” said Leonard.

During the tornado warning, three alerts were sent out to parents to keep them informed throughout the process, Leonard said.

A final alert at 5:15 p.m. confirmed that the children were headed out and all roads were clear.

In an email sent out to staff members of the division, Leonard said, “Please keep Appomattox County in your prayers tonight. I have just spoken to Dorinda Grasty, (Appomattox) school superintendent. They held their students as well and many are still at the school tonight. Many of the roads were blocked and many homes leveled. They have students who do not have homes to go home tonight.”

The next day, all elementary students received free ice cream, middle schoolers received Icees and high school students received a thank you for their display of bravery during the tornado, according to Leonard.