'Late' school closing peeves public

PINE PLAINS — The 1 p.m. dismissal of Pine Plains Central School District students on Friday, March 16, when a nor’easter hit, disturbed some residents and district employees.

Concerns were raised at the Board of Education’s meeting March 21 at Cold Spring Elementary School.

Brendan Kilpatrick, who has a younger sister who attends the school, used the public comment portion of the meeting to speak "on behalf of his family."

"I have some concerns about the dismissal on Friday," he said. "Why was the school open until when the roads were obviously not safe? We’re putting the kids at risk."

"Somebody asked me to mention that also," said Mary Zayas, board member.

District employee Virginia Kemp said several people in the community have complained about the "late" dismissal.

"The storm was predicted for about a week," she said. "Sometimes, there’s not a snowflake and we cancel school."

Kemp, who has one son who drives a district bus, noted that one vehicle slid off the road because of inclement weather and another was struck.

The authorities, as well as the Pine Plains Hose Company, responded and "scolded" her son, she said.

"I’m an employee of the district, but I care more about the kids than I do about my job ... I want to publicly thank the bus drivers," she said.

Linda Kaumeyer, superintendent of schools, stressed that she is in charge of school closure and takes "full responsibility" for her decisions.

The day of the storm was a busy one for not only the superintendent, but her colleagues, she said.

Her duties included spending "hours" on a two-way radio and keeping abreast of news reports.

She noted that, because of the storm, her day started at 3 a.m. and ended 17 hours later.

"There’s nothing I can say to you ... that can change your opinion," she said in the direction of Kilpatrick and Kemp. "That’s the kind of thought that goes into the decision. The rapidity of the snow fall at 10:50 a.m. alerted us to the situation."

Kaumeyer commended district bus drivers for getting pupils home safely, as well as making calls to parents after they were dropped off.

"I wanted to thank everyone for that," Kaumeyer said.

Kilpatrick and Kemp used the second public comment to repeat their concerns.

"I’m not looking for an apology. A lot of people are angry. All other districts in the area were closed at 10 a.m.," she said, adding that some students were still at Cold Spring after 2 p.m. that day.

"That was reckless," Kilpatrick added. "It’s great to hear that nobody was hurt ... but next time, we might not be so lucky. My concern is the safety of our kids."

When asked for further comment on the issue, Kaumeyer directed concerned citizens to read her most recent reflections piece, which is on the district Web site, www.pine plainsschools.org.

"The board and I commend our bus drivers, transportation staff, administration, the town highway departments and all community members who teamed to bring all our children home from school safely," she stated. "No one agonizes over weather-related decisions more than I do and we have already taken your comments to heart."




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