Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s snow plan to avoid a repeat of ‘snowpocalypse’ three years ago didn’t exactly line up with the thinking at Atlanta Public Schools on Friday.
Just moments after Reed held a 10 a.m. press conference suggesting the district let kids out as early as 11:30, school leaders issued a statement saying they were sticking with dismissal plans they already made that would let them out several hours later.
“Atlanta Public Schools communicated with the city last night regarding our dismissal plan for inclement weather today,” the district said in a statement, saying it planned to release students beginning at 12:30 p.m. “It is important to remember that we must communicate in advance with families to ensure that caregivers are prepared to receive their children when they are released,” the statement continued.
Reed’s office said the mayor was not trying to dictate to the school system, which is independent, but an effort to avoid the gridlock that struck metro Atlanta in 2014. Thousands of motorists were trapped in cars because of a blanket of several inches of thick ice and snow during the 2014 ‘snowpocalypse.’
Reed and Gov. Nathan Deal were roundly criticized for their preparation and response to the storm and have vowed to avoid making the same mistakes.
At the press conference, Reed called for staggered departures for Atlantans, beginning first with school students, followed by employees at private companies at 12:30 p.m. and then non-essential city workers at 1:30 p.m. City Hall closed shortly after the briefing at 11:30 a.m.
“Our goal, including the goal of the state, is to have everyone off of metropolitan Atlanta roadways by 4 p.m.,” he said.
More than 100 trucks and de-icing equipment will hit Atlanta’s streets during the storm, including salt and brine trucks, said Ria C. Aiken, Atlanta’s director of emergency preparedness. Aiken said the city has been getting ready for such a storm for months, including conducting dry runs with machines to increase efficiency and updating emergency websites such as notifyatl.com.
Reed implored residents to have three days worth of food and water during the impending storm and Police Chief Erika Shields asked that residents check on the elderly to make sure they are safe.
Anne Torres, a spokeswoman for Reed, pushed back on suggestions the mayor and the school district were not on the same page. Torres argued that the mayor was trying to encourage parents to get their children earlier than the Atlanta school system because Intown workers hail from various areas around metro Atlanta and may need extra time to get to their destination.
With the 2014 storm still fresh in his memory, Reed made clear metro Atlantans be prepared.
“This is a very serious weather event,” he said. “My only concern is that I don’t think people have an appreciation of the gravity of it.”