UNICOI COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Unicoi County and Johnson County school districts often have to deal with a problem other systems don’t consider when choosing to close schools: mountain roads.

In counties with mountainous terrain, it’s often difficult to understand why schools are canceled, especially if the weather does not appear all that severe. School leaders told News Channel 11 that there’s a lot that goes into the decision-making.

Johnson County Schools take into account the back roads closer to the end of the county that borders North Carolina.

“They get a lot of snow, and they have a lot of back roads where sun doesn’t shine very much,” said Johnson County Director of Schools Dr. Miscelle Simcox. “They might get an hour of sun a day. Those roads are very treacherous, and our buses travel on those roads.”

Johnson County Schools goes through a process before deciding to close schools.

“They get up early in the morning, my transportation supervisor and the department head of transportation, and they check the roads,” said Dr. Simcox. “They call me and they say, ‘the roads aren’t safe.’ So, I take their recommendation into account, and that’s when we close schools.”

Dr. Simcox said the state allows four virtual days for the school to use during cancellations in a school year, two in the fall and two in the spring. However, Simcox said some travel for select students and staff is still necessary.

“However, you have to get permission from the state department,” said Dr. Simcox. “You have to have your schools open for the feeding program. When we have bad weather days, that’s really not an option for us.”

In Unicoi County, school officials also have to schedule around mountainous terrain.

“The real challenge for us is a lot of times we have to make a decision based on a forecast that hasn’t necessarily hit yet, but because of our mountains and because of our area in general, if you wait until it starts, you possibly could’ve waited too late,” said Director of Schools for Unicoi County, John English.

English said he’s had people suggest not running buses in the mountains, but he doesn’t feel like this is a viable solution.

“If it’s that bad, then it’s too bad,” said English. “We’re still putting a 16-year-old behind the wheel of a car or [a] 17, 18-year-old inexperienced driver. If you don’t run buses, then you’re just putting people at a disadvantage when it comes to trying to get to school.”

English said his main priority is the safety of his students and staff.

“Now there’s been many times and there’ll be many more where we make a decision about closing school, and then whatever the forecast was doesn’t happen, but I’ve told people, I’d rather be wrong a thousand times on that, be safe than sorry,” said English.