IPS responds to parents’ concerns over handling of delay, closure on Wednesday

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- A messy commute Wednesday morning created a lot of confusion and headaches for parents.

Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) first announced schools were on a two our delay just before 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. Two hours later, the district canceled all classes due to poor road conditions. Some students were already on the bus and others were already at school.

Many parents told FOX59 News they were upset and confused about how the district handled the closure.

Parents received a message from IPS around 9:30 a.m. stating in part, "because roads are not expected to improve within the next several hours, IPS has moved from a two hour delay to a full closure for today."

IPS Media Relations Coordinator Carrie Cline Black said students who were already at school before the announcement of the closure stayed until normal dismissal time.

When the delay was initially announced, one parent said her daughter was already on the school bus. She said she received a message from IPS telling her bus drivers were radioed and told to drop students back off at home. One mom, Tenisha Robinson, said the message also stated to not call the school.

She also said the message never told her what time the bus would be bringing her daughter home, and panicked when she saw her 6-year-old daughter walking home alone after being dropped off down the street.

"My kid's already on the bus. Who do I call? She doesn’t have a cell phone. She’s 6." Robinson said.

IPS said the delay to cancellation isn't normal protocol, but the district had no indication roads would be unsafe until the first wave of buses were on their routes.

Cline Black said when IPS receives word of bad weather, crews head out early in the morning across the city to check on road conditions. She said Wednesday morning they did not do that because they didn't know roads were expected to be unsafe.

In a statement, district officials stated:

"As IPS transportation routes began this morning, buses encountered unforecasted inclement weather conditions creating untimely and dangerous circumstances. As we were starting our second tier school routes, staff received reports that road conditions were deteriorating and unsafe. At that time, a decision was made not to disrupt routes already in progress. However, due to the unexpected glaze of ice on roads, schools on our second and third transportation tiers were moved to a 2-hour delay.

"After further monitoring road conditions, staff determined routes were still unsafe and were not expected to improve. As a result, a decision was made to close impacted schools for the day. We regret the inconvenience and confusion this has caused our families and employees as we worked to ensure the safety of all."

IPS also cancelled all after school activities Wednesday.

The general snow/ice cancellation policy for IPS states:

"When severe weather hits central Indiana, the decision to delay or cancel school and activities is not taken lightly. Indianapolis Public Schools has a team of experts with years of experience weighing in on this critical process.

"When snow or ice rolls in overnight or in the early morning, several bus drivers hit the streets early. They drive in five different areas of the district, on both main streets and side roads, to get as complete a picture of conditions as possible. Many factors play into making important and timely decisions that include amount and type of precipitation, temperature/wind chill, visibility, status of clearing roads and sidewalks, refreeze of melted snow/ice from previous day, blowing snow and continued snow in the forecast.

"By 4:45 a.m., drivers compare conditions across the city to agree on a recommendation. By 5 a.m., the Deputy Superintendent for Operations calls the superintendent to share that recommendation and discuss options for the day. The goal is to inform all families and staff before 6 a.m. to ensure as much time to align work and childcare plans as possible."

“The decision to open, close or delay school is the product of a team of professionals doing their best to keep IPS students and families safe when weather becomes hazardous,” said Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee. “This is one more example of our commitment to provide excellence to the community.”

IPS also knows the meals provided to students are important to families, which is why the food service team provides meals at select sites, even when school is closed.  Click here for a list of emergency meal sites.