(KTVI) - Some parents in the Rockwood School District are upset because of a late cancellation notice.
But the school district says there's a reason. Rockwood officials posted on their Facebook Page that they had to cancel classes because the cold temperatures put 20 buses out of service. Another 85 buses did not have working brakes because of the cold.
The district realized they would not have enough buses and cancelled classes at 6:50 a.m. Friday. But some parents say it was too late. Several students had been picked upand others were standing in the cold waiting.
One parent called FOX 2 and said her child was picked up at 5:15 a.m. and then dropped off again at 7:30 a.m. Other parents complained their children stood in the freezing temps for buses that never showed up.
Rockwood apologized for the frustration and inconvenience created by the situation saying, "The safety of our students is our first priority, and we'll work with First Student to see how we can resolve this issue as we progress through the winter months."
With temperatures expected to dip below zero on Monday, the Rockwood School District and First Student are working together to make sure the issues won’t happen again.
Out of the district’s 126 buses, some wouldn’t start, others wouldn’t brake, and on top of that, fuel pumps weren’t working. Rockwood School District Transportation Director Bill Sloan says, “A lot of things can go wrong with them. We’ve got a crew working almost around the clock on these buses.”
First Student staff members have been revving these engines for the past few days, but even that didn’t prevent problems, for example, a lack of engine block heaters, which help buses start in cold weather.
Sloan explains, “Here at Rockwood, we don’t have enough infrastructure in place to be able to plug all of our buses in. we’re addressing that, we’re actually addressing a few things with our buses.”
Now, Sloan says they plan to add more electrical outlets and add to their bus battery inventory. Another new Rockwood policy is for First Student staff to start the buses at 1am when temperatures are expected to fall below 10 degrees. That way, they are able to notify school district officials well before 5am if there are any issues.
Meanwhile, other large school districts are also taking steps to make sure their buses function in the cold.
In the Parkway School District, the buses are already being warmed up for Monday, and there are plenty of engine block heaters to go around. Deputy Superintendent Desi Kirchhoffer says, “There could be some unforeseen events, perhaps, but right now we feel pretty confident that we’re in pretty good shape.”
At Fort Zumwalt, staff will be in on Sunday, starting the buses and draining the air brakes. But with all the predicted snow this weekend, it could be a moot point. Kirchhoffer adds, “We’ll be out in the streets, just checking things out early, to see if it’s safe enough to even consider.”
Full Statement from Rockwood:
All schools are closed on Friday, January 3. We apologize for the late notice this morning regarding the school cancellation.
As we proceeded to start the school day, First Student alerted us that 20 school buses would not start due to the cold weather conditions. As we made arrangements for those routes, they also shared that 85 school buses did not have working air brakes due to the cold temperatures.
We immediately called our staff and parents to let them know that school needed to be canceled today. We realize the frustration and inconvenience that many of you are experiencing.
The safety of our students is our first priority, and we'll work with First Student to see how we can resolve this issue as we progress through the winter months.