As a new driver, oddly enough I was looking forward to this day. Above, view from my car as I make the slow and careful drive to the bus base at 5:30am. I passed several cars spun out and stuck in ditches along the way.
Arriving at base, things don't look so bad. It's just a light dusting of snow, the kind that would make Midwesterners and Northeasterners laugh. But it is what lurks beneath (a layer of solid ice), combined with the steep topography and narrow, rural roads many of our routes navigate, that causes indecision on whether to cancel school.
The district's transportation supervisor, director, and safety and training coordinator had all been out on the roads since 3am, assessing the situation. The district owns it's own plow trucks for clearing the driveways and parking lots of school properties, and one stops by the base to report on conditions, and the news is grim.
By 6:30am about 125 of the 140 bus drivers had arrived at the two bus bases. At 5:09am the district announced through an email blast to all families and staff that school would be 2 hours delayed, with regular bus routes. At 6:25am a new announcement was made that school would be 2 hours delayed, and buses would be on SNOW ROUTES. Meanwhile we drivers awaited the directive to go out and start chaining up our bus tires.
We had practiced this back on a warm, rainy day last summer before school started.
I wondered how well I'd do, given that I'd only done it once, under ideal conditions. Thankfully I'd heard that drivers all helped each other, so there were many hands, and eyes to make sure you'd done it right.
While we're waiting, I'll show you some of the decorations around main base. There are different themed tables, and a competition for the best decorated table.
The Men's table got first place this year.
Another half hour went by. The sun rose. The snow began to melt, but the ice below the slush remained firm. We started to hear rumblings from dispatch that the district Superintendent was not agreeing with the Transportation Director's directive that school should be canceled. With worsening road conditions, most of which involved spun out vehicles blocking major arterials, the decision was finally made at 7:15am to cancel school.
We drivers were dismissed from work and told to go home -- carefully. It was the Friday before Winter Break, and class parties planned for the day were now cancelled, teacher gifts would not be delivered, and gifts kids had made at school to take home to give to their parents would have to wait until the New Year. I worried about the kids whose parents had left for work already, telling their kids to go to the bus stop at a certain time, or walk to school, and had not heard the latest announcement that school was now cancelled. How many kids would be waiting at bus stops for buses that never come? Or home alone all day when their parents thought they were at school? A lot of parents were unhappy that our district cancelled school.
A neighboring district decided to hold firm on their plan to go ahead with school, and they ended up having 3 bus accidents. Parents in that district were angry that school was NOT cancelled. So you really can't win. When school IS cancelled, many parents are mad at the inconvenience. When school is NOT cancelled, other parents are angry that buses are late or there are accidents.
Most of the bus drivers took off immediately when dismissed. I clocked off with the rest of them, then lingered at base, waiting for road conditions to improve. I studied the route books, because when school started again in January, I would be a substitute driver, put on new and different routes each day. I was the last driver out, so I got to lock up the gate. Bye-bye buses! See you in January!
I was being followed by the snow plow on my drive home.