Last Wednesday was a long day for some students in the Thomaston-Upson School System due to the threat of severe weather plaguing the area. The first of two tornado warnings was issued by the National Weather Service for Upson County just as school was letting out, preventing bus riders at Upson-Lee South Elementary and Upson-Lee North Elementary and all students at the middle and high school from being dismissed at the normal time. Most car riders at the pre-K, ULSE and ULNE were discharged prior to the warning being issued.
T-U School Superintendent Dr. Maggie Shook stated that the safety of the children and staff of the schools is a top priority and that the school system’s protocol was enacted last week to insure just that.
“Each school day, as parents put their children on the bus or drop their children at school, they put their trust in us. We have a great responsibility to educate and to protect our students while they are in our care,” said Shook. “The actions of school and system personnel during the severe weather threats on Wednesday, January 30, served to assure our parents and our community that school is one of the safest places a child can be!”
According to the school system handbook, students may be dismissed during a tornado watch. However, if a warning is issued, due to safety concerns students may not be checked out or picked up until the warning is lifted. If a tornado warning occurs during the release time of the school day, students will be held at school until it is deemed safe by the National Weather Service or the Georgia Emergency Management Association.
Therefore, when the sirens went off Wednesday, students and staff moved into the interior hallways and restrooms at the school where they remained until the first warning was lifted at 3:15 p.m. Once that warning had passed, ULMS and ULHS car riders were able to be dismissed; however the buses were unable to leave before a second tornado warning was issued. Students were moved back inside until the second warning was lifted at 4:30 p.m. at which time the first wave of buses were loaded and allowed to leave. Students for the second wave of buses remained at the schools under the care of school personnel until around 5:30 p.m. when the last of the buses pulled away from the schools.
Throughout the afternoon, parents and guardians were kept up to date of the situation via the SchoolReach parent contact system.