Memphis-Shelby County Schools breaks down severe weather planning

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis-Shelby County Schools announced school closures for Thursday, February 2nd. The decision was made in response to the current ice storm and hazardous road conditions. The district also announced that all of its before and after-school activities would be postponed, that school staff were urged not to report to work, and central office employees would work remotely.


FOX13 wanted to take a closer look at what all goes into MSCS processes and what factors are considered when deciding school closures amid severe weather. In an interview with MSCS Chief of Communications Dr. Cathryn Stout, FOX13 learned much of these decisions are a group effort.

Various departments weigh in when severe weather looms, including the district’s cross-functional team currently headed by Interim Superintendent Toni Williams, the transportation department, emergency management, the academics and communications staff, and even athletics play a part.

The district explained together the team checks weather patterns to determine what type of road conditions its staff and drivers would face the next morning.

“Our bus drivers hit the road very early. Our first stop is somewhere around 5:30 and 5:45 in the morning for our 7 a.m. schools, which means our bus drivers are on the road driving to their assignments, driving to their buses around 4 o’clock in the morning,” said Stout.

“We not only want our students to be safe, we also want our drivers to be safe,” said Stout.

MSCS carries 305 bus routes and 23,000 of its students take the bus to school daily. The district shared more on what the school closure decision-making process looks like.

“We actually begin tracking our forecast every Monday. Every Monday we like to see what the week ahead is going to be,” Stout said.

“Some of the things that we might be looking at are road conditions, which is what impacted this decision today, but also power outages. If we have widespread power outages in the area we know that is a detriment to our students and families,” Stout said.

MSCS said it’s too early to forecast what decision it will make for Friday, but assures that students are excited to get back to the classroom for AP prep sessions and pep rallies. As for snow days, this week’s missed days are already accounted for; the state allots 13 days. Stout said the district is well within range.