Buses unable to pick up children for school on Keel Mountain

GURLEY, Ala. - Keel Mountain Road in Gurley is officially closed to all drivers, leaving just one way up and down the mountain, Keel Hollow Road.

County officials and engineers have been monitoring slippage on Keel Mountain for the past nine months. The recent heavy rain has caused the road to move even more,  leaving it unsafe for travel.

There are about 500 homes on Keel Mountain and the major concern in all of this is how it will affect students getting to school. Keel Hollow Road is currently the only detour for the Keel Mountain Road closure and it has been deemed unsafe for school buses to travel.

On Tuesday, leaders from the Madison County School system tried to take a school bus up the detour route Keel Hollow Road as a possible solution for their problem. Madison County Elementary Principal Amy Mason says it was clearly unsafe to have buses on Keel Hollow Road.

"I actually was keeping tally marks in my head of every time a situation came up that I was uncomfortable with. It's a very steep grade going up and down. The bus would really have to have quite a bit of power to get up that side of the mountain and then some of the sharp turns, the way it just drops off on the edge so you're seeing just rocks and no guard rails to protect you," says Mason.

"I'm a mom. I have children myself and I would not feel comfortable with my child riding a bus on that road," says Mason.

There are about 100 Madison County students directly impacted by this closure, so finding a solution quickly is key. In the meantime, all parties are working together to find solutions.

"We had an emergency meeting for those families affected by the Keel Mountain Road closure. We brainstormed with the group that was present. We did discuss carpooling and I think some connections were made with different families that were present for that event," says Mason.

Madison Elementary will be opening school early at 7 a.m. for drop off and providing after school care until 5:45 p.m. Madison County Elementary Principal says they are doing everything they can to be accommodating.

"We know that the best place for them to be educated is here with us. We want our children here, but we want them here safely," says Mason.

She says she hopes community organizations will step in and help families that this closure will cause a financial hardship for. The extra mileage will add up costing families much more in gas than they would typically need to get to and from school, especially with bus riding not being an option for the remainder of the year.

"Talking with parents, one of the concerns is the additional mileage that it's going to incur daily coming up and down. You have to drive into Jackson County to get back into Madison County to go that way and that's the only way to go," says Mason.

The Keel Mountain Road improvements are expected to take a few months. The Madison County School system says they should have definite plans in place to handle this closure by Monday.

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