09/01/06 — Wayne, Duplin Schools close

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Wayne, Duplin Schools close

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 1, 2006 1:48 PM

High winds, flooding and power outages prompted school officials to cancel school today, upgrading Thursday night's announcement that schools would operate on a two-hour delay.

Duplin County schools made the call to close early this morning, with Wayne County following suit by 8 a.m. Officials in Duplin County could not be reached for comment on the extent of damages in the school system.

Ken Derksen, public information officer for Wayne County schools, said the local decision was in line with recommendations by emergency services. Numerous roads in the county had to be closed and four schools in the county were without power, Derksen said, prompting the cancellation.

Sprunt Hill, assistant superintendent for auxiliary services, said school officialsstarted making the rounds early to assess the situation before the determination was made to call off classes.

"We have been out since 4:00. I think the flooding hit about 4:30," he said.

There was heavy flooding in the direction toward the Greene County line, Hill said, as well as in the Saulston area. Trees were also reportedly down in Seven Springs and there were reports of downed wires, he added.

"We had one (electricity) line that deals with Northeast, Tommy's Road and Belfast (schools) and half of the central office was without electricity," he said, noting that the power had since been restored.

There were also reports of leaks caused by the winds that blew up shingles on some of the buildings and Hill said he received calls from some school cafeterias that the storm had caused freezers to shut down. Two schools where that occurred were Brogden Middle and Norwayne Middle.

"Between starting schools two hours late and not having electricity, we worried about serving lunch to the kids," Hill said. "Because of this, we decided it would be better to go ahead and call school.

"Do we want to do this? No, this is the last thing we want to do. But, I would rather make a last-minute decision than for someone to get hurt out there."

The bulk of today will likely be spent reassessing everything around the county, Hill said.

"We'll be checking breakers, roofs, leaks. We have got all of our maintenance people out. We have sent people to all areas of the county, trying to help them clean up," he said.

Overall, Hill said he was relieved that Wayne County did not suffer irreparable damage.

"We were lucky pretty much, not to have any more damage than we did," he said. "It's not bad, it's inconvenient."

Even though schools were closed, staff at the individual schools and the central office administrative personnel still had the option to work, said Olivia Pierce, executive director for community relations.

Monday was already a scheduled holiday for the school system in honor of Labor Day. Mrs. Pierce added that a make-up day for today will be announced later.