Wake County didn’t delay or cancel school Tuesday because buses had already started their routes when roads began to flood, a spokeswoman said.
Wake’s 159,000 students had a rainy trip to school Tuesday morning as heavy rain continued to fall, causing rising waters that closed some roads.
The school system’s buses begin their earliest routes at 5:30 a.m., said Wake schools spokeswoman Lisa Luten, and much of the flooding came later. The Raleigh Police Department issued a news release around 7:15 a.m. Tuesday that listed 13 road closures and advised drivers to stay away from them.
After bus routes begin, Luten said, it’s tough to delay or cancel school because some children could be stranded at bus stops. More than 70,000 Wake students ride the bus.
“Safety is our first concern,” Luten said.
Some buses were delayed Tuesday morning, and Joyner Elementary near downtown Raleigh notified parents of alternate routes to the school because some nearby roads were closed, Luten said.
The only Wake school that sustained damage from two days of heavy rain was Vernon Malone College and Career Academy on South Wilmington Street in Raleigh. The school dismissed at 10 a.m. Tuesday “due to rising water.”
Vernon Malone student drivers were allowed to drive home, and bus riders and carpool students were taken to Southeast Raleigh High School. Carpool students could be picked up from the Southeast Raleigh auditorium, and bus riders were provided transportation.
A classroom, the gym and an administrator’s office at Vernon Malone were flooded with a few inches of water, Luten said. The school will operate on schedule Wednesday.
Vernon Malone was closed for nearly three months after flooding from Hurricane Matthew last fall damaged the main building. Students returned in January.
After the flooding, the Wake County school board approved contracts in November to repair and reopen Vernon Malone’s campus. Now the school system will consider whether more needs to be done to prevent flooding.
“They are looking at the site long term to see if there needs to be any changes,” Luten said, adding that the school has a basement.
It’s unclear why the site has been prone to flooding. Luten said the school system is working to determine whether the issue is a rising stream or water runoff, possibly from Interstate 40.
On Tuesday, some people criticized Wake on Twitter for not canceling or delaying classes.
“You close for a flurry but not a flood,” tweeted Elizabeth Patrick.
“Really surprised @WCPSS didn’t delay school today with all the road closings due to flooding. Very hazardous roads out there today,” tweeted Dave Soroka.
Luten said she had this to say to students who complained about going to school: “First and foremost, student safety is our No. 1 concern.”