Working parents voice concerns about after school dismissal

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Monday afternoon, several school districts decided to dismiss early, or cancel after school activities with the threat of severe weather on its way.

With that decision, come headaches for working parents who have to reorganize their day to come pick up their child.

“We already have that plan, we pick him up at 4, 4:30 every day," said Brent Atkinson. For their family, a change in routine is no simple task. “My wife works at the hospital so she can’t just leave," said Atkinson.

Their child goes to Blossomwood Elementary.

“Gotta leave work early and get people to cover what you’re doing. And kind of on short notice, it can definitely be a hassle sometimes," he said.

Each day, when the school yard empties, his student stays behind in the after school care program, provided by HCS. On the rare occasion when that care is cancelled, it's Daddy to the rescue.

“I know they’re trying to keep them safe, but, sometimes I think there’s a little bit of an overreaction sometimes," said Atkinson.

Brent also said it's frustrating sitting in the line, knowing behind those high brick walls, is a storm shelter that can resist 250 mile an hour winds. “They’re probably safer in there than they are at my house because we don’t have a storm shelter," he said.

For many parents we spoke to, it's about more than just convenience, it's also about cost. When the district cancels after school care, it means parents that pay for it, won't get a refund. “Which is not a huge deal for me but it could be for some people," said Atkinson.

A representative for Huntsville City Schools said, they stand behind their decision-making process. In a statement to WHNT News 19, District Spokesman Keith Ward said:

Huntsville City Schools Weather Safety Team has the task of making recommendations on determining school activities, based on any impending weather event.  Members of the Weather Safety Team attend EMA (Emergency Management Agency) briefings and are able to communicate directly with local officials and national weather service meteorologists in order to assess the impact. Utilizing the data, a risk assessment is applied to determine the best decision for the safety of students, staff, and parents.  The recommendation is sent to the superintendent for review and a final decision.   The Weather Safety Process may be found on the HCS website under the “Parent Info” tab.

Atkinson believes there may be other motivators at play. “It seems like when one school does it, you don’t want to be the school left hanging," he said. But while it may complicate Brent's routine, he'll still drop anything and everything, for the sake of his child.

“I guess better safe than sorry maybe," said Atkinson.

If you would like to learn more about how Huntsville City Schools makes their cancellation decision, they spell it out, step by step, on their website.