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West Kentucky and Tennessee Telecommunications staff members are shown setting out from Graves County Central Elementary School to Lowes Elementary in the northwestern part of the county.

Graves County Schools thank Good Samaritans who helped get kids home in the snow

Feb. 7, 2011

 West Kentucky and Tennessee Telecommunications staff members are shown setting out from Graves County Central Elementary School to Lowes Elementary in the northwestern part of the county. WK&T general manager Trevor Bonnstetter and his staff provided a lift for students who otherwise couldn’t get home. Also helping transport students and pull buses out of ditches were Graves County Sheriff Dewayne Redmon’s deputies, various elected county officials, and a number of supportive volunteers.

The surprise severity of Monday’s snowstorm caused school administrators throughout western Kentucky to send students home early, in some cases within an hour of arrival. Graves County kept students in place at Lowes and Cuba elementaries. While many parents came to get their children, many more were unable to do so at Lowes. “We’re very grateful to all who helped for being such good neighbors,” said Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Smith. “They’ve provided a very valuable service.” Although several school buses slid off the roads, no injuries were reported in the Graves County School District’s efforts to get the students home. The inclement weather was cited as the reason Graves County Schools will not be in session Wednesday, Feb. 8.

 “We are very grateful to Trevor Bonnstetter and the staff of West Kentucky and Tennessee Telecommunications and to Graves County Sheriff Dewayne Redmon and his deputies,” said Graves County Schools’ Assistant Superintendent/director of pupil personnel Jennifer Smith. “They really played the role of Good Samaritan by driving students home who probably couldn’t have gotten home any other way. And, there were so many others who helped, ranging from elected county officials to average citizens who had the heart and took the time and effort to help with kids and with pulling buses from ditches. This was a real community effort. We can’t thank them enough!”

Smith said that along with virtually all other western Kentucky school districts, the severity and longevity of Monday morning’s snowstorm came as a surprise in Graves County. Forecasts had called for an inch or two of snow that rising temperatures would melt during the day. “It became clear to us through what was happening outside and the weather radar that we watch closely that things would only get worse,” she said. To complicate matters, Superintendent Pete Galloway was in Washington, D.C., on school business.

Smith and Assistant Superintendents for instruction Kim Harrison and Carla Whitis conferred with one another, with Galloway by phone, with transportation director Jason Riley and with the schools’ principals.

The decision to send students home was made and announced at 8:30 a.m., an hour after most elementary schools opened and 30 minutes after the middle and high schools had started the day.

“Bus drivers did their best,” Smith said, “but like so many other vehicles, a few buses slipped off the roads into ditches. We had alternate buses ready to take over. An early problem was a bus that slid off Ky. Highway 121, but another bus was there to take the students home within minutes.” No injuries were reported.

Weather conditions waxed and waned and after buses arrived at the elementary schools, Smith and other administrators determined the weather and road conditions were too dangerous for buses at Lowes in northwestern Graves County and Cuba in the southern part of the county. Students were held in place and that announcement was made. For the most part, parents came to get their children on an individual basis.

Besides elementary students, a number of middle and high school students who make bus connections at the elementary schools also were held at the two schools. At one point, the number of students at Lowes was estimated at 400 and Cuba had as many as 220 students. “But Lowes was particularly hard-hit,” she said.

Smith concluded, “We take our responsibility with the safety of our students and staff very seriously and put a lot of thought into our decisions. Besides our volunteer helpers, we very much thank our faculty and staff for their hard work and we thank our students and parents for their cooperation and understanding in dealing with a very unpredictable morning.”

The Graves County Schools will not be in session Tuesday because of the aftermath of the snowstorm.

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