School closure text sent hours after kids arrived for class
AUTHORITIES sent a text message to every mobile phone in southeast and central Queensland yesterday warning of mass school closures - two hours after children had already started arriving for class.
The 10am text message sent by the Department of Education and Training followed confusion over an unprecedented decision made at 6.30am to close all schools from Agnes Waters to the NSW border and west to Nanango.
Deputy Premier Jackie Trad made the schools announcement on live TV at 7.15am, 2½ hours after authorities were advised the severe weather system hovering over the southeast region had changed.
Initial advice, as of 8pm on Wednesday, showed the worst of the storm hitting the southeast in the evening.
But the updated information provided to authorities at 4.50am yesterday predicted the weather system would hit the southeast earlier in the afternoon, potentially causing chaos during afternoon peak periods when parents were trying to pick up their children from school.
The rainfall estimates from the Bureau of Meteorology also increased significantly between the two meetings, with the updated advice stating falls of up to 400mm could occur in some areas - up from 150mm to 250mm the previous night.
The Courier-Mail understands many schools had no knowledge of the closure until staff saw Ms Trad announce it on TV. And some non-state schools were not notified officially until after 9am.
Parents not immediately tuned in to the news were left scrambling for information on school websites and Facebook accounts, with some independent schools still advising they were open.
At others, teachers under umbrellas waited out the front to tell parents the news as they arrived.
Other schools had to issue alert after alert, updating the situation and calling parents back to pick up their kids. Many were referred to the departmental website listing closures but it was slow to update.
The problem flowed to child care centres with a whopping 1402 kindergartens and child care centres listed as closed by yesterday evening.
Commissioner Ian Stewart acknowledged some students had already been dropped off at school when the decision was made.
"This is an unprecedented late call. We can't afford to have inexperienced young kids walking home from school at a time where there could be flash flooding," Mr Stewart said.
He said authorities received updated advice about the intensifying storm conditions yesterday morning.
"Certainly as of (Wednesday), there was different advice as to what we got (yesterday) morning," he said.
"But that is the nature of this beast. There are just so many variables.
"And we have seen this over the last few days as Debbie has come across the Queensland coast."
Police Minister Mark Ryan said the changing weather advice forced the drastic action to ensure students and their families were safe.
"The advice that we received this morning provided some additional items for concern that were raised for the first time," he said.
"They included that the system was landing in the southeast corner earlier than originally predicted and, of course, more severe than predicted."
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the decision was made to protect students and their parents.
"The decision was made … based on the best advice coming from the bureau," she said.