Durham, Orange County Schools: “We are sorry” for scheduling class Monday with flooded roads

Durham and Orange County Schools have apologized for scheduling class Monday when flooding made some roads impassible. In one instance, emergency officials were dispatched to help students on a school bus that had been caught in a ditch near a flooded road.

“Although we made the best decision we could with the information we had this morning, we are sorry to our families and staff for the difficulties that came from our decision to open school,” Durham Public Schools said in a statement sent to families and staff members late Monday morning.

Durham school officials said they anticipated flooded roads would subside by the afternoon and planned to continue the school day on a regular schedule. Buses will be rerouted around any impassible roads, the school system said in the statement.

Students at Middle College High School were dismissed early at noon. All Durham Public Schools athletic events scheduled on Monday were canceled.

Orange County Schools made a similar apology on the district’s Facebook page after students were forced to wait for the bus in the rain, standing beside flooded roads.

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“We apologize for any safety issues this may have caused, in addition to the stress and inconvenience,” Orange County School officials said in the post.

“When we make decisions to close or delay or open schools, safety is always our top priority,” the post said. “Though we lead with safety, we might not always get the decision correct. Today is one of those days. We tried to make a decision to keep schools open using the best information we had at the time. We got it wrong, and we apologize for that. We are responsible to you, our community, and we will continue to strive to make our school system and its operations as safe as possible.”

Orange County Schools dismissed students two hours early and canceled all after school activities on Monday.

Both Orange and Durham announced Monday that schools would open Tuesday on a two-hour delay. Durham officials said in a statement that the delay would “ensure that our facilities are prepared and roads are safe following today’s rainfall.”

Torrential rain brought on by Hurricane Florence caused some creeks and rivers to overflow in the Triangle, and several roads in Durham and Chapel Hill flooded Monday morning. In one instance, Orange County and Durham City firefighters were sent to a section of Pickett Road near Pineview Circle at about 9:30 a.m. for a report that students on a school bus headed to Forest View Elementary School had been caught on a flooded road on the west side of Durham.

Mud Creek, which flows under Pickett Road, had overflown its banks and closed the road Monday morning. The bus turned around before it encountered the flooded section of the road, but its back wheels went into a ditch along the road.

There were about a dozen students on the bus. Staff from the school picked up the students and shuttled them to the school, according to parents at the scene.

In a separate incident, an Orange County bus can be seen on video driving through a flooded section of old N.C. 10 on Monday morning.

A tornado warning and flash flood warning were issued Monday morning in Durham. The school system had begun assessing road conditions at 3:30 a.m. Monday.

“When weather advisories were issued and conditions began to deteriorate, buses were already en route to school,” school officials said in a statement.

“In situations like these it is generally safer for buses to bypass flooded roads and bring students to safety at our schools, which are secure facilities.” The school system said that students arrived safely at schools.

A tweet by @sbanawan showed a car trapped in the flooded intersection of North Duke Street and West Morgan Street Monday morning. That intersection is around the corner from Durham School of the Arts.

Durham and Orange schools said absences on Monday will be counted as excuse absences.

Staff writer T. Keung Hui contributed.

Camila Molina: 919-829-4538, @Cmolina__