To close or not to close, that is the question facing leaders every time winter weather threatens the safety of the more than 76,000 students who attend Nashville public schools.
Metro has cancelled class seven times this school year — two days more than they have built into the calendar. Some days it’s a no-brainer; others like Tuesday left parents wondering why their children were not in school.
Early Tuesday morning there was no shortage of warnings that wet roadways could have re-frozen overnight, but why did schools close for an entire day when a couple hours of sunshine cleared up the last slippery roads?
Metro has an answer — buses. Not just school buses but Metro Transit Authority buses that transport students to magnet schools.
“We have 10,000-plus students in magnet schools, and many of these students rely on MTA buses,” Metro schools spokesperson Noelle Mashburn said. “MTA cannot change bus schedules to accommodate schools.”
In addition to the students who rely on MTA, Metro schools data shows that roughly 52 percent, or 43,467 students, depend on traditional Metro school buses to provide transportation to and from school each day.
And those buses must travel roads all over the county including the less-populated areas in the northern part of Davidson County and the small community of Joelton.
Before making any decisions about canceling classes, Metro sends crews from the school system’s transportation department out to check the roads. They also factor in reports from Metro Public Works.
“We take a good comprehensive look — try get a good view of the entire city,” Mashburn said. “[After others have been cleared] there are still shadier areas on the less trafficked roads that still have ice.”
Most of the “known trouble spots” that crews look for when checking roadways are for schools in the Whites Creek cluster.
Those schools, excluding Bordeaux and Brick Church Middle School, account for 2,318 students, according to data provided by the school system. Add Goodlettsville and Neely’s Bend elementary and middle schools — in the Hunters Lane cluster — and that number climbs to nearly 4,400 students.
That may not seem like a lot of students, and not every student in those areas is affected, but there are enough to cause Metro to cancel school district-wide when the roads in downtown and the suburbs appear as clear as the sky on a cold winter night.