Late Rockwood school cancellation angers parents; buses wouldn’t start

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(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.

30 comments

    • Buddy

      @Randy- You obviously know nothing about AIR BRAKES. There is no fluid in them like your car. If a little moisture gets in the lines on air brakes, they freeze, and become inoperable.

      It really sounds like the school did all they could in the situation given. Yes it’s an inconvience, and children shouldn’t be out in the freezing temps. GET OVER IT. Stop trying to blame someone for everything! Stuff happens people. When it gets cold like this, mechanical equipment will fail. Deal with it, and move on,,stop the blame game.
      That’s what’s wrong with todays youth! Always looking for someone to blame their problems on because that’s what they have seen mommy and daddy do for their whole life.

      • Anna

        You seem awfully angry over someone not knowing how air brakes work. They obviously didn’t know how air brakes operate, but you didn’t fail to point that out in the rudest manner.

        I disagree with you. I don’t think that the school did all they could. With as cold as it was going to be this morning, they should have cancelled Friday classes yesterday and notified parents before 6:50 AM. It would have saved a lot of children from standing out in single digit temperatures.

        I also found it funny that you tell everyone to ‘stop the blame game’, and then blame today’s problems on youth. I’m sure if your child was standing out in 0° temperatures due to the schools lack of planning ahead, you’d be pretty angry too. I don’t see how this is the problem of ‘today’s youth’.

      • Buddy

        @Anna, other than my use of CAPS to tell Randy he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, I fail to see how my comment was rude.
        As for the rest of my comment, I didn’t say this was “a problem of todays youth”. I clearly said this blaming society is what has caused such a problem with todays youth. They learn from their parents, and most people just shouldn’t breed.

        I do see your point on the school, and of course there are several sides to the story.

  • Joe

    So 105 buses don’t work because its cold? Maybe they should buy the Minnesota model buses instead of the Florida version. I guess there won’t be working buses on Monday or Tuesday, either, when its supposed to be below zero.

    • Joe

      Could you imagine if Metro cancelled bus service because it got cold. Perhaps the school bus contractor could turn to them for advice.

  • momma of 3

    There is a simple fix. Cold weather busses use block heaters. However that costs a lot of money that Rockwood taxpayers aren’t willing to spend!

  • kawtj

    I would still rather my children not wait out in this cold weather. this weather is a lot colder than what we are normally used to. let them go i may when it is 60’s out not 3 outside

  • Dav

    What idiot of a parent would drop their children off at a bus stop in this type of weather? My parents would have us wait for the bus in the car. Some folks should not have children, know what i mean?

  • Sally

    As a parent you have the choice not to send your children to school when it is bitterly cold like it is now or on Monday and Tuesday next week. I always kept my children at home when it was like this because they did ride a bus and I did not want them waiting on the bus that may not show. I drove and still drive a school bus now. When I did keep my children home, I always wrote a note for their absence explaining it was for their safety I kept them home. Never once did they get an unexcused absence when I kept them home.

  • Sue6

    It’s great you can all have a “crab” session for my entertainment. How can anyone be mad when a school district makes a decision for the safety of the student? If your kid was waiting in the cold, shame on you for letting them stay out in the cold!!!!! Wait with them in a car, drive them, have a neighbor drive them, keep them home, etc. You had a choice to make, if they waited without you providing a safe spot for them, it’s your own fault – not the district!

  • Dea

    While I understand parents frustrations about the lateness of letting them know about school, it was not planned and I as a Rockwood parent am glad they called it off and not put my child in danger. The school can not predict the weather and these cold temps. Meteorologists can not predict the weather 100% right so calling off school last night would have made parents just as mad. No matter what you can not make everyone happy, but I am grateful they put my child first.

  • bob

    If they had 80+ busses with frozen brake lines, First Student needs to look at it’s maintenance program. I.E. (draining air tanks, adding alcohol, etc.)

  • bob

    Kind of curious why they would pick a kid up at 5:15 am. What do they do drive around in circles for 2 1/2 hours.

    • Jen

      Bob,

      Some of the kids that are being picked up in the 5 o’clock hour are the kids being bussed in from South St. Louis. By the time they pick up all the kids and make their way through traffic it takes them awhile to finally arrive at school. I know one little girl in 2nd grade has a 45 minute bus ride assuming there is no traffic or stops along the way.

  • KatiJo

    I’m wondering why parents couldn’t have dropped their kids off at school themselves? I understand not every family has a vehicle, but I’m assuming most in that district do. Soooo, why? One day out of the entire year to take your kids to school isn’t too much to request, right? And how many parents are already out of the house by 650, anyway? Esp if you have little ones who hadn’t gotten on a bus yet.

  • kenny morrow

    The school did not plan for this to happen and are just as upset as the parents, because it is still about money. Things go better on paper when school is in as planned. There is weather that can’t shut things down for a long time so quit complaining about things that are out of our control like the weather.

  • Steve

    Hey Guys, just to put clear intel into this story no Rockwood student is on a bus at 5:15, (please don’t forget about single parents that leave for work before kids go to bus stop) and there are not 80 airbrake buses on the Grover and Eureka lots, airbrakes were not the problem, over 40 buses would not start because of the extreme cold temps, these buses do not have ample infrastructure to plug in block heaters, so in this type of weather the buses are started in the late evening the night before and left running all night. This policy was not implemented this year and so you will have this issue. If you are wondering buses consume about a half of a gallon of fuel per hr. Also the districts fuel pumps were froze up because of the temps. Blame whomever you want but these are the facts first hand.

    • Angnjc

      Thank you Steve, most of the general public does not understand school bus problems. I believe more parents should be in the know of the vehicle that they put their kids on.

  • Angnjc

    First Student knows the “limits” of its school buses, , they should have contacted the school earlier in the morning. They already allow those buses to idle for 2 hours on days colder than 20 degrees, so now they are going to let them idle for 5 hours. That is a big waste of school bus funding that would be better spent on upgrades or new buses. Low bids for the bus contract means bad quality buses. The ones to blame for Friday is the school district for deciding to allow school on days that the morning temps that are that cold.

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