While St. Charles Parish Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Ken Oertling said he didn’t receive any negative emails or phone calls related to the matter, many parish residents expressed frustration on Facebook about the district’s decisions regarding Hurricane Sally-related closures.
After consulting with the parish’s Emergency Operations Center and out of an abundance of caution, the school system announced Sept. 13 that all St. Charles Parish Public Schools – including both in-person and virtual/eLearning – and the School Board Office would be closed Monday, Sept. 14 through Wednesday, Sept. 16 due to the impending impact from what was then Tropical Storm Sally.
While Hurricane Sally’s projected track was uncertain for much of Monday, by Tuesday St. Charles Parish residents learned the mandatory evacuation issued by Parish President Matthew Jewell had been rescinded. When school officials confirmed that school closures would still be valid for Wednesday, many residents took to Facebook to express their displeasure.
Oertling said closure on Wednesday was in part due to the parish’s mandatory evacuation order.
“Employees and students did evacuate on Sunday when the order was issued and it was announced that schools would be closed Monday through Wednesday,” he said. “The decision was made after collaborating with parish officials based on current storm tracking and impact data, which at the time was estimated to be significant. Additionally, St. Charles Parish Public Schools’ Transportation Department assists the parish with evacuating residents when a mandatory evacuation is called.”
Oertling said closing through Wednesday allowed both families and employees the chance to return home if they had evacuated and allowed for the school system to assist with returning residents back to the parish.
When asked why St. Charles Parish initially closed schools for multiple days versus one day at a time, like in some other parishes, Oertling said there is no set policy about closing schools due to impending tropical disturbances.
“The best decision is made at the time with the current information available and recommendations provided through collaboration with the parish’s EOC,” he said. “The safety of our students, employees and the community are at the forefront of any decisions that we make. At the time, and due to our role in assisting with a mandatory evacuation order, it was necessary to close through Wednesday to allow residents and employees to safely return from the mandatory evacuation as we did not know when the order would be lifted. It was also needed so that we could ensure our schools were staffed and our busses would be available to transport our students to and from school.”