Extreme cold disrupts school bus runs, recess

Alex
Alex Di Pietro
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School bus service cancellations and other measures had to be taken by Prince Albert and area schools on Thursday, as the cold fell to temperatures fluctuating from -30 C to -40 C.

Daily Herald

According to Sask. Rivers School Division policy 6010 “Cold or Extreme Weather Conditions,” buses will not run if the temperature hits or falls below -40 C and when the temperature is at or below -35 C with a wind chill at or below -45 C.

In Prince Albert, Dev Ed. and Special Ed. buses were cancelled in the Sask. Rivers School Division. As of noon on Thursday, 14 out of a fleet of 90 school buses were not in operation, all of them in the rural areas surrounding the city.

“In the rural areas, a) it was too cold and b) roads were dangerous,” said superintendents of schools Alan Nunn. “To have kids on the bus, if you get stuck in the cold weather, it’s just not a good situation.”

Bus run cancellations, as determined by the transportation supervisor, can apply to the entire school division, clusters of school attendance areas or to individual schools.

As noted by Nunn, wheelchair lifts were not in operation on Thursday, as the temperature fell below -30 C. Also, students did not go outside during recess.

“We have pretty clear policy that guides us in the decision-making process,” he said.

For P.A., information from the Weather Information Office of Environment Canada at the Prince Albert Airport is used for decision-making.

As well, the school division follows a policy that keeps its schools open. Nunn said that while parents have the choice to not send their children to school, it’s important that the schools remain open for children and parents who are unaware of the temperatures.

“I’ve been with this school division for almost 30 years, and I can remember only one time when we shut all of the schools down,” he said.

Nunn gave the example of a child walking to school in the city.

“Say he walks four blocks, and he gets to school and the doors are locked, now he’s got to turn around and go home,” he said. “Perhaps mom and dad have already gone to work. It creates a dangerous situation, so our school doors are always open.”

Andrée Myette, director of communications for the Conseils des Écoles Fransaskoises, said students remain inside for recess when the temperature dips to -25 C and below. She said school bus service had also been cancelled -- namely, at Ecole Valois in Prince Albert.

“We have a policy -- and it does vary from one community to another -- as soon as (the temperature hits) -40 C, school bus transportation is cancelled,” Myette said, noting that the schools did remain open, however.

“We don’t want children to be on the corner freezing in case the bus is late,” she said.

While normal practice, Myette noted the school division does not drop off a student using the school bus service, unless there is a parent at the bus stop.

“Especially with this cold, if the parent for one reason or another wasn’t there, the child would be brought back to school for security measures. And the parent would pick the child up at school,” Myette said.

Myette noted that the school division considers school closures when an issue at the school might put the students’ wellbeing and security at risk.

“If there was any electricity or heat that was lacking, that would be an example where the students would be returned home,” she said.

Mike St. Amand, vice chair of the Prince Albert Catholic School Division, said schools within the division are also always open, despite whether or not students are kept at home by parents.

School bus services are cancelled when the temperature reaches -45 C with the wind chill for the Prince Albert Catholic School Division.

Mike Kuehne, operations manger for First Student Canada, said all 10 buses that take rural routes for the Prince Albert Catholic School Division were not in operation on Thursday.

For decision notices concerning the Sask. Rivers School Division, visit: srsd119.ca, for the Prince Albert Catholic School Division, visit: cec.pacsd6.sk.ca and for the Conseils des Écoles Fransaskoises, visit: cefsk.ca.

alex.dipietro@paherald.sk.ca

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