We all have so many stories from the events of this week. Please bear with me as I feel compelled to rehash some of the thank yous and relay the story of our experience. There are so many heroes in our midst and I am truly humbled by the generosity of our community.
First, thank you to our incredible staff. I have never been as proud to be the principal of Mountain Park Elementary as I was on Tuesday and Wednesday. These people are amazing and really do care for your children like their own. We didn’t give them a lot of direction on what to do (as we were answering phones and checking out students while trying to find out if our buses were coming). They sprung into action, making sure they knew where students went, answering your calls & texts on their cell phones, communicating via email, helping arrange ways home for students, keeping everyone warm, calm and happy, maintaining a sense of humor and their professionalism. Mr. Z stood in the road to keep cars out of the bus lane. The office staff and Ms. J (media specialist) helped man the phones. Every single person was actively involved in ensuring student safety and well-being.
At this point we found out from Transportation that 11 of our 16 buses were unable to make it to the school, despite attempting to get there. We then sent the School Messenger with bus information at 3:17 p.m. Ms. Juers (cafeteria manager) along with many helpful staff members started preparing snacks for the many students who might be there late.
Meanwhile parents kept coming to retrieve their children along with those of friends and neighbors. Everyone was calm, polite and patient as we worked to call up students as quickly as possible. At this point parents (most with 4x4s) Jennifer and David Cartier, Kirt Holder, Mickey and John Karoly and Fred Barth, along with his son Adam, marched in offering to help get people home and/or with anything else we needed. As the office staff called for permission from parents they began making run after run to take children home safely. Our staff gave each other rides and places to sleep so all had somewhere to go. David Cartier came back again and again until he got stuck in Brookfield, got a ride for himself and the student he was ferrying to to meet his father, completed his mission and jogged home!
After most students were picked up it was clear that we had children whose parents couldn’t make it to them. Ms. Robson bravely went into the kitchen and whipped up a dinner of tossed salad, cereal, cheese toast (on wheat hamburger buns), bananas and fruit cocktail. Our awesome students enjoyed the dinner and watched a movie in the cafeteria. Our parent chauffeurs continued helping kids and staff get home. Fred Barth took Ms. Romanos and her last student. The remaining staff, Ms. McCarter, Ms. Lagasse, Ms. Laney, Ms. Kinney and Ms. Marks had students they refused to leave. Most of these students are in our special needs program and are bused from Sandy Springs. Their parents were unable to get to Mountain Park. The teachers kept the students happy and entertained.
Around 8:15 the Special Needs bus driver, Ms. Slaughter made it to Mountain Park. She took her son along with three other students, armed with ample snacks, and headed south. Ms. Marks and Ms. Laney finally went home once their students were on the way. Unfortunately Ms. Slaughter did not make it past the river. While the students slept on the bus, she waited a few hours to receive assistance from our Transportation Department and was able to safely take the students to Sandy Springs Middle School where they warmly spent the night. The Sandy Springs Middle School principal, staff and students loved having our sweet babies and they apparently were the hit of the middle school slumber party happening over there.
After a 9:00pm ice cream treat, another parent arrived after being stuck on GA400 for hours. She decided to bravely walk to Mountain Park with her daughter and their dog. We then got the three remaining students to sleep on a mat, a couch and a clinic bed with plenty of blankets (thank you, Ms. Brooks, for the ones from your trunk). Ms. Kinney was talked into getting a ride home from a neighbor after her students were asleep. During the entire night we received countless phone calls, emails and visits from YOU along with former parents and even random strangers with offers of blankets, food, places to stay, rides home on a 4 wheeler and a myriad of other things. My superiors, Ms. Pupillo and Dr. Shandor were calling hourly to check on us. The Facilities Department made sure the heat was turned on in the areas of the building we were occupying.
One of our former parents and pack 135 leader, Brian Burdett suited up and attempted to get to us to drive people home but was thwarted by the car (and bus) pile-ups in Brookfield. Former parent Machelle Louden walked up to see if she could help and ended up giving her mittens to the mom walking to Mountain Park. Soon after we referred a stranded motorist seeking shelter to her. Her house was surely more comfortable than what we had left to offer after giving the children comfortable sleeping spots.
Meanwhile the parents of our remaining students were struggling to reach their children. One couple walked the majority of 12 hours to make it to MPE, which they did at 12:15 a.m. Dad Rick Carpenter made an attempt to pick them up but he too was thwarted by the ice. Once they arrived at school we tried to get them to stay the night, but they were committed to walking on home. We packed their kindergartener up in a wagon from the PreK class with lots of blankets and they let us know when they got home. Only then did Ms. McCarter and Ms. Lagasse walk home themselves.
Another dad drove 11 hours from Sandy Springs to get his son and made it to the Northridge area. Around 1:30 a.m. we had a visit from Officer Walters from the Roswell Police Department, who will forever be one of our heroes. Officer Walters had chains on his vehicle and drove the student and me (yes, I rode in the back of the police car) to meet his father just south of the river on Roswell Road. They made it home around 3:15 a.m.
Now Ms. Allman, Ms. Robson, and I were left with one student (once I returned from my tour of the eerie, frozen city, thanks to Officer Walters). Calls and offers of assistance continued constantly. In the morning, after a lovely breakfast prepared by Ms. Robson, we contacted Transportation to see if we would be getting a bus to take our student home. The word from Transportation at that time was that it was unlikely a bus would be able to make it to us. Consistent with our experience, two heroes walked in the door around that time. Brad Smith took Ms. Allman and Ms. Robson home. Kirt Holder (with parent permission) took our remaining student and me. It was fortunate because a bus would not have made it all the way to the student’s home. As it was, we had to get out and walk the last part of the trip (I use “we” loosely, as I stopped walking after sliding down an icy driveway). Kirt got the student to his parents who were walking from the other direction. He then drove me home.
We got word that our three little girls at Sandy Springs Middle School were picked up and/or driven home by bus in the early afternoon.
That’s our story. We are so thankful that everyone is safe and well! We are forever grateful to our heroes and to all who offered help. You astound us! We are truly blessed to be a part of this community. Thank you!