PLUM BOROUGH (KDKA) — The worst of the snowstorm was over, but late Wednesday afternoon, workers were still clearing snow in the Plum Borough School District.
In the school parking lot, junior MaKenna Leisifer was getting a helping hand from her mother. They were shoveling out the car she had left parked in the lot a few hours earlier, because she didn’t want to chance driving home on snow-covered roads.
Leisifer told KDKA-TV News, “A lot of students were more or less upset with the district. I was personally, too, ’cause I didn’t want to drive here. A lot of students actually left early.”
Her mother, Sandy Leisifer, said, “They should have closed the school. She should not have driven her car here, it’s that simple.”
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Earlier in the day Wednesday, the school district sent out an alert saying elementary schools would have a two-hour delay. Then, 45 minutes later, the district changed plans, saying elementary schools would be closed.
When those text messages went out, classes in the Junior High and High School were already underway.
At 12:23 p.m., the district sent out an alert that there would be an early dismissal. Eight minutes later, it said students would be dismissed an hour-and-15 minutes early.
Margi McClintock, also a Plum parent, thought classes should have been cancelled, or at least delayed.
McClintock’s son’s car, which was parked outside their house, was struck by a vehicle occupied by two students on their way to school. The road was snow covered at the time.
Their car ended up on it’s roof.
“They lost control. I don’t know how fast they were going. They hit my son’s car, pushed it enough to go over the mailbox. They came out with just a scratch; they are very lucky,” McClintock said.
Meanwhile, in the Kiski Area School District, James Held says his kids spent the day clearing sidewalks rather than in the classroom.
“I didn’t see them getting on the bus when I couldn’t get around in my four-wheel drive truck,” said Held.
KDKA’s Ross Guidotti Reports:
His children were in a group of hundreds who ended up staying home after their buses either didn’t show up or were very late. Despite what many parents called dangerous road conditions, Kiski held classes as normal.
Held’s sons bailed on their bus stop after waiting and having a few close calls with cars that were sliding by.
“At that point, I told my brother, ‘It’s not worth it risking our lives. We’re just gonna go home,’” said student Tyler Held.
Parent Danielle Burns had some blunt words for the school district.
“It was stupid for them not to do something, a two-hour delay,” she said. “I think it’s absolute ridiculous, just to get their school days in.”
Rob Brestensky sent KDKA a picture of a Kiski Area school bus on the side of Garvers Ferry Road.
KDKA reached out to district officials to find out why there wasn’t a delay. They sent this letter, which was sent to parents:
“The forecast related to the arrival of the snow combined with the actual real-time conditions were the determining factors in having an on-time start this morning. As we now know conditions deteriorated rapidly and roads that were mostly passable for the secondary runs turned out to be less so for the elementary. The decision to delay the start of school or otherwise cancel is mine, and the responsibility for such decisions is borne by me alone.
“I want to thank teachers and support staff for the continued professionalism displayed under all adverse circumstances. Special thanks to custodial and maintenance personnel for their efforts in allowing us to function normally upon arrival.
“I apologize for any inconvenience that was caused. Due to the road conditions some parents elected to keep their children home from school. Student absences will be excused today for those not in attendance for weather related reasons.”
Meanwhile, Peggy Ladik, whose grandchildren ended up staying home, says a delay or cancellation should have been a no-brainier.
“They not only put my grandchildren in danger, my husband is a school bus driver,” she said.