Pickens County Schools closed; parents encouraging safe driving

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PICKENS COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – As people geared up for potential snow fall, the Pickens County School District got ahead of the curve and let all of their students out early.

District leaders said they had an early dismissal to ensure students and buses were off the roadways before 3 p.m. It was all as a precautionary measure.

Thursday afternoon there were packed lines and bumper to bumper cars at many schools in Pickens County.  District leaders said it was all for a reason.

“Our Superintendent talked to Pickens County Emergency Management and they were very clear that they felt like the roads needed to be cleared…completely cleared no later than 3:00,” said John Eby, spokesperson for Pickens County Schools.

Eby said that was due to the threat of potential snow and ice.

“If the snow starts falling quickly enough, it could still stick…even though the temperatures don’t go below freezing. So if we have fast snow accumulation then it could get dangerous,” Eby said.

That’s a big concern for Kimberly McAlister. The mother lost her daughter in a car wreck a little over a year ago while roads were still wet.

“My biggest concern is how dangerous it’s making the driving conditions,” McAlister said.

That’s why the District sent elementary school students home at noon as well as middle and high school students home at 12:45. Students won’t be required to make-up those lost hours.

“If you get out early, everything is under grace. Everything is  forgiven,” Eby said.

With the threat of freezing temperatures Thursday night, they already closed schools for Friday. District leaders tell 7News, they have a plan in place.

“Normally in most South Carolina districts you have to make that up by coming in on another day. We are fortunate in that we are one of I think 10 districts that gets to do digital learning days,” Eby said.

Those digital learning days will allow students in fourth to 12th grades to complete all of their assignments at home using Chromebooks. Students in Pre-K through third grades will be given a folder with assignments to complete. District leaders said this will keep students safe and productive at the same time.

“Everybody involved in that decision knows firsthand how inconvenient it can be for parents. But ultimately safety is the top concern,” Eby said.

Again, the District did announce schools will be closed on Friday due to the potential threat of icy roads. This means students will have to complete their assignments within five days to be counted as present.

Family wants drivers to be safe after loss of daughter in car crash

“People are not changing their driving habits and they’re flying down the road,” McAlister said.

McAlister commutes from Greenville to Easley five days a week. Everyday she said a crash is always in her view, especially during severe weather.

 “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t pass at least two car accidents,” McAlister said.

This mother said when it rains or snows, she’s reminded of how she lost her 29-year-old daughter.

“About a year in a half ago, we lost our oldest daughter to a car accident,” McAlister said. “It just so happened to be an 18 wheeler crossing in front of them and they slid underneath that 18 wheeler,” McAlister added.  

Her daughter Amber Edwards was a passenger in that car. Both she and the driver died instantly as they were heading to work.

“As a parent of a child who is no longer here, I can tell you wherever they were going it wouldn’t have mattered if they were 30 minutes late,” said  McAlister.

Pickens County Emergency Management said they’re concerned about temperatures dropping overnight which could turn wet spots into black ice.

“Everybody please pay attention to this weather and the way that you’re driving,” McAlister said. 

And as her family is still grieving the lost, she hopes her message can save a life.

“Everybody just slow down and consider what could happen. Is it really worth your life to get somewhere a couple minutes early,” McAlister said.  
“Just slow down. It’s not going to hurt if you’re five minutes later than you would’ve been,” she exclaimed.

The County’s Emergency Management is on standby watching overnight conditions. They said plans are in place if things get worst.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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