School closing decision factors multiple, superintendent says

“Good call on the weather opening decision,” is what Enterprise Board of Education President Dr. Danny Whitaker told the schools superintendent at the EBOE meeting Feb. 6.

“A lot of prayer involved,” replied ECS Superintendent Greg Faught.

As the area braced for severe weather forecast for Feb. 6 by the National Weather Service, the Enterprise City Schools leadership made the decision to open for business.

It was a decision based on multiple factors with the safety of the students at the helm, Faught said after the school board meeting. “These decisions are not taken lightly,” he said.

Faught said that Wednesday, Feb. 5, information was collected from the National Weather Service in Tallahassee, Fla., and Mobile. “I consulted with Coffee County Emergency Management Agency authorities, area superintendents and our administrative staff, watching the situation very closely,” he said. “It was determined that while our area was under a slight risk of receiving severe weather, we had an extremely high probability of being able to transport students safely on Thursday and as it turned out, the information that we received was correct.”

Due to an increase of some 353 students in the past two years, some New Brockton students are currently attending classes in seven modular buildings. Fort Rucker Elementary School students are also in a temporary facility awaiting the completion of their new state-of-the-art facility on post. Those schools were among area schools that opted to remain closed Feb. 6.

“Some local school systems chose to close based upon travel concerns associated with the need to navigate miles of dirt roads and flood prone areas while others closed because they do not have adequate storm shelters to protect students,” Faught said. “Currently, Enterprise City Schools do not share those same challenges. The roads our buses travel are very safe and unlike most districts, our schools have storm rated shelters.

“No two school systems are the same so it would be foolish to make decisions based upon another district’s situation,” he added. “The ECS administration has to do what is right based upon our circumstances.

“In these situations, some members of our community do not access good information because they rely heavily on social media rather than other credible sources,” Faught said about the onslaught of negative social media posts following the announcement of the system opening for business. “Our lead administrative staff has the luxury of more than one century’s worth of collective experience in these situations.

“We are also afforded the opportunity to ask EMA officials clarifying questions regarding specific situations the general public doesn’t have access to through news or social media outlets,” he said. “When I informed our EMA official that we would be holding school Thursday there was no disagreement at all. In fact, the only concern shared was that other area districts had chosen to close and that my decision may upset some members of the community.

“As for those who chose to hold their children out of school Feb. 6, I completely respect that decision,” Faught said. “I will never assume that my solution for a student's safety is better than their parents’.

“Regardless, I felt that my first responsibility was to make the right call no matter how unpopular. As evidenced by Thursday’s unfolding, the correct decision was made.

“We will never knowingly place our students in harm’s way,” Faught said. “Each of our elementary schools, junior high schools and the high school have structures engineered to withstand wind gusts of 200 miles-per-hour. In fact, our school board has spent millions of dollars to build facilities to keep our students and staff safe.

“Our schools are unique in many ways so we will continue to make decisions that apply to our specific circumstances,” Faught said. “As always, we will continue to be extremely vigilant in keeping our students and staff safe while working to provide the premier educational opportunities our community expects.”

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