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FORT WORTH Eight managers with the Fort Worth Independent School District gathered around a table before noon on Tuesday to monitor weather radars and communications from the National Weather Service.Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Mark Bethany interpreted data.

"We see a lot of lightning in these cells. That's one of our main concerns is lightning," he told the group.

It was the first time this year for Fort Worth ISD to activate its Incident Command Team in the emergency operations center.

"Everybody's on alert," said the head of maintenance. It looked like storms could go severe just as middle and high schools would be releasing for the day.

"We believe children are safest in the schools. When you're dismissing children, that's obviously a very vulnerable time," said spokesman Clint Bond.

Fort Worth ISD never considered early dismissal.

Neither did Dallas.

"We thought it wasn't severe enough to do that," said Superintendent Mike Miles. "But we wanted to be safe so that's why we're not having after-school activities."

Several districts and Catholic schools in Dallas and Fort Worth let kids go early.Nolan High School closed at 1 p.m. The principal says many parents requested it, and seniors had already been released after morning tests.

"Put the decision in their (parents') hands," said Nolan Principal Cathy Buckingham. "We're here if they'd like their students to stay. But if they'd like their students to go home, they're free to go home."

Some students did stay. A spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth said parents were concerned that they might have trouble getting to their children during an emergency.

Some Fort Worth ISD parents pulled their kids on their own. One parent said his son would be safer in his own home because it would be hard for school officials to keep track of hundreds of students if disaster struck.

Structural engineers point out that most schools are built of reinforced concrete and are much safer than just about any house.

But it's human nature to want to hold your child. Especially when mother nature holds the cards.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Dallas ISD provided state policy pertaining to early dismissal:

Once the school day has commenced, the District shall hold the schools open all day regardless of weather. Only in extenuating circumstances, i.e., lack of heat, damage to the building, or the like, will consideration be given for early release of students/staff. This consideration will be made on an individual school basis and determined by the executive director or division chief. The safety, health, and well-being of the students will remain a priority. Cafeteria staff shall make every effort to serve the teachers and students present.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com

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