Hurricane Earl: R-C Schools watch and wait

Published 9:23 am Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Schools in the region are taking a watch-and-wait approach as Hurricane Earl heads towards the outskirts of the North Carolina coast.

“We’re at the watching stage right now,” Northampton County Schools Assistant Superintendent Phil Matthews said.

As of Wednesday morning, meteorologists still believed Hurricane Earl would stay well off shore in the Atlantic Ocean and not make a direct hit on North Carolina. That forecast has most schools comfortable with continuing on a normal schedule at the current moment.

“We’re just watching to see if there are any changes,” Ridgecroft School Headmaster Elton Winslow said. “As of this moment, my plan is for us to come to school Thursday morning and, should conditions worsen, we could leave early and make a decision about Friday.”

Winslow said Ridgecroft would not jeopardize the safety of its students and staff.

“When the winds are sustained at 35 mph, it’s time to go home,” he said. “Tree limbs start to fall at that point. If we have had a soaking rain before hand, I would call it even earlier.”

Hertford County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. John Fahey said he is busy keeping up with the latest developments on the hurricane.

“We’re monitoring the storm and trying to determine what we can do,” Dr. Fahey said. “Friday could be the rough day for us, depending on the track of the storm.”

Dr. Fahey said the school district would continue to keep an eye on the storm’s track and development and make decisions from the information they receive.

“We’re in the same position as everyone else,” he said. “We’ll wait and see and then make the best decisions for the safety of our children.”

Northeast Academy Headmaster Russell Leake said he was keeping a watchful eye on the storm, but had made no firm decisions at the current time.

“We have not made any decisions,” he said. “We are watching the path and keeping a look out to see how it may affect us, but we are doing nothing different at this point.”

The same is true in Bertie County.

“At this point, we’re doing some hurricane drills this morning (Wednesday) and have provided some preparedness information on our website,” Bertie County Schools Public Information Officer Brent Todd said. “Other than that, we are monitoring the situation.”

Todd said the school district would continue to keep a watchful eye toward the storm and make decisions as time grew closer, but that no changes to the school days were planned as of now.

Most of the schools leaders said they would work in consultation with their Emergency Management directors.

“We’ll work closely with Tim Byers in the Emergency Management office,” Leake said. “We usually try to follow what is suggested to us. If we do need to close or cancel school, we’ll use our phone tree and notify radio and television to allow everyone to know our plans.”

Matthews said Northampton County Schools would do the same.

“Typically, we partner with Emergency Management and mirror what their efforts are,” he said.

Three of the Northampton County Schools – Conway Middle, Northampton-East and Northampton-West are shelters and, should they need opening, would have to be closed for students.

Winslow summed up the group’s decision-making effort.

“We’re always going to put the safety of our children and our staff first,” he said. “If we err, it will be on the side of keeping everyone safe and sound.”