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Schools keep watchful eye on weather

CONYERS — Since the beginning of the new year, inclement weather conditions have resulted in Rockdale and Newton students missing a total of four school days. As of Monday evening, Rockdale students can expect to miss at least one more due to approaching winter storm Pax.

Rockdale public schools will be closed for all students and teachers today. Eleven- and 12-month employees should report to work; they will be notified if the weather dictates a change in the morning, according to the school system.

According to the school system, after meeting with Rockdale Emergency Management, the Superintendent Rich Autry made the decision to cancel school today. Rockdale County is right on the line of potential hazardous weather, and emergency officials advised that a difference of just 1 or 2 degrees could impact area bridges throughout the county and make driving hazardous.

As of presstime Monday, Newton schools had not announced plans to close.

When deciding whether or not weather conditions warrant school closings, there are many factors taken into consideration.

“It is always dependent on the information we receive and the expected conditions during our school hours and hours of transition when our buses, student drivers and staff will be on the roadways,” said Cindy Ball, public relations director for the school system. “A lot of the time this is our biggest concern, but with icy conditions, we also have to add the walking conditions in parking lots, sidewalks, entrances to buildings, and any potential power issues.”

Ball went on to add that in past years some decisions have been made the morning of school days, just hours before students are expected to be in the classroom, when weather conditions have shown a significant change overnight. She also stated that the school system constantly monitors the weather.

The Newton County School System follows a similar protocol when it comes to severe weather closings.

“When bad weather is predicted, the Newton County School System officials monitor weather conditions closely,” said NCSS Public Relations Director Sherri Davis-Viniard. “Should conditions deteriorate, the superintendent consults with local law enforcement agencies and the Newton County School System transportation department to determine if road conditions are safe. Should conditions be too dangerous, the Newton County School superintendent will make the decision no later than 6 a.m. to close or delay the opening of school.”

The Weather Channel’s website states that both Rockdale and Newton counties are under a winter storm watch from 7 p.m. on Tuesday to 7 a.m. on Thursday.