ELIZABETHTOWN — School officials in Bladen County are continuing to assess the changing circumstances following Saturday’s effects from Hurricane Matthew.
Superintendent Robert Taylor said on Wednesday there are still some schools with lingering effects and roadways that are still creating hazards. No decision about students returning to school will take place this week, he said.
“We still have schools that don’t have full power, like Clarkton School of Discovery, and some still have water inside from roof leaks,”Taylor said. “And some of the mobile units also have leaks.
“Before any decision can be made (about schools opening), we need to make sure we can occupy the buildings without water in the them and with full power,” he added.
Also of concern are the county’s network of roads, many of which have been washed out completely or remain impassable. He also said there were areas where the ground was saturated and trees were still falling across roadways.
“We seriously have to look at our capability to transport about 3,000 students safely,” Taylor said.”We still have a lot of roads and bridges out, and the water from the Cape Fear River is still rising.”
Taylor said a school bus weighs about 30,000 pounds without children aboard.
“That’s a lot of weight to put on potentially weak roads,” he said. “So we are working with NCDOT and looking to plat new routes for our buses.”
Taylor said he could not predict when classes might resume, but added that a best-case-scenario would be the middle of next week.
“I think trying to get students back in schools on Monday would be pushing it,”he said.
But when the decision to open schools is made, Taylor said it would still be up to parents whether they want their children riding a bus or whether they want to transport them themselves — or even stay home.
“The final decision will always be up to the parents for their children,” Taylor said.
He added that the decision to open schools will be made when a majority of students can be transported safely.
“The measuring stick will be that we are able to get a bus to the students,” he said.
Taylor also addressed the circumstances surrounding the school athletic events this events.
“Right now, we’ve suspended all practices and sporting events through the weekend,” he said. “Actually, for the foreseeable future. We’re not sure if football can even take place next Friday … it’s all under a wait-and-see thing right now.”