Late Tyrone district closing angers parents

Parents of Tyrone Area School District students took to social media Wednesday to vent their frustrations at the district’s decision to cancel classes at seemingly the last minute.

Freezing rain pelted the region early Wednesday morning, leading to dangerous and slick roads. Tyrone initially did not announce a cancellation or delay, but contacted parents at about 7:30 a.m. to let them know that it had pulled buses off the roads. Students were dismissed from school at about 9:30, and parents were asked to pick up kids from the district’s day care by 10:15.

Bill Latchford, vice president of the Tyrone Borough Council, said his daughter does not attend school in the district but does use Tyrone’s buses to get to classes at St. Matthew Catholic School.

He elected to drive her to school instead of putting her on the bus but said that the quick turnaround created a major problem for parents, many of whom were already at work when the students were released.

“It’s a real burden when the district takes so long to decide if they’re going to delay, cancel or go about business,” Latchford said.

Posts on the Tyrone school district’s Facebook page earned dozens of responses and shares from parents expressing their frustration at the situation.

Tyrone superintendent Cathy Harlow released a statement on Facebook in response to the criticism.

“I completely understand the frustration and concerns regarding today’s events,” Harlow said. “I hope you understand we strive to make well informed decisions utilizing the most relevant information available at the time.”

She said that she would “continue to evaluate” the process for cancellations and delays to “keep student safety in mind.”

Harlow said making a decision about a cancellation can be time consuming, as many people need to be contacted and weather conditions can fluctuate.

“As much information as possible is gathered in an attempt to make the best decision for all stakeholders,” she said.

The decision to cancel or delay school is made by the superintendent.

Amy Weaver, whose three children attend school in the district, said her frustration stemmed from the fact that district did not make parents aware of where their child was during the process, so while she knew classes had been canceled, she did not know if her kids had made it to school or if they were still on the buses.

She said it took her almost an hour to make it to work in the icy conditions, and then the confusion left her “sitting at work and [her] heart pounding.”

“I was extremely frustrated,” Weaver said. “They handled this poorly.”

Some other area schools made decisions to call off school later than some parents may expect, but the outcry did not match that in Tyrone.

Altoona Area administrators called a two-hour delay, then a cancellation by 7:30 a.m, district Spokeswoman Paula Foreman said.

Altoona Area had a later start date to the school year than other districts. It was scheduled to end the school year June 13, but Foreman said snow days have extended the school year to the third week of June. As the calendar currently stands, the last day of school is scheduled for June 17.

No graduation ceremony date has been set, she said.

The Hollidaysburg Area School District called an emergency two-hour delay and then canceled classes about 7 a.m., according to its Facebook page. The make-up day is set for June 10.

Latchford said that school districts should be more careful about how they deal with these situations in the future, to limit the stress on the parents, who are paying taxes to fund the schools.

“The school district really needs to be a little more caring about what they’re putting their parents through,” he said. “We’re paying the bills.”

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly contributed to this story. Mirror Staff Writer Paige Minemyer is at 946-7535.