A school bus carrying high school students slids into a ditch February 7, 2018. (Photo courtesy of the Ontario Provincial Police)

School Bus Company Defends Decision To Run Buses

The company that provides transportation to thousands of kids across Windsor-Essex each morning is defending its decision to run school buses during a treacherous morning commute.

The decision is being questioned by parents on social media, especially after two school buses slid off the road Wednesday morning.

Nobody was hurt in either incident, although one bus had 17 high school students onboard when it went into the ditch on the 14th Concession in Essex. The second bus slid off Hwy. 3 near Division Rd. in Kingsville when it was struck by another vehicle.

Those parents are not alone. Amherstburg Town Councillor Rick Fryer plans to bring it up at town council Monday night.

“I’m going to bring it up until somebody’s held accountable for making decisions, and how are you going to do it, so it’s done in a better timely fashion for Windsor-Essex,” he says pointing out the media reported snow overnight into Wednesday morning.

Fryer says his biggest concern is the safety of drivers, whom he says are forced to drive in unsafe conditions and children who ride the buses.

Manager at Student Transportation Services, Gabrielle McMillan says safety is her primary concern too, but there was no indication the roads would be so slippery when the decision was made at 5:30am.

“None of them [spotters or operators] had any major concerns this morning,” she says. “The operators are making the decisions based on the conditions that they are driving in and what is coming, and whether or not they feel they can safely drive with their equipment.”

McMillan says buses have been cancelled in the past because of icy conditions, snow drifting, whether the plows have been out, and poor visibility. She says they typically run if only a few centimetres of snow is forecast.

She says the spotters, many of whom are bus operators, make the decision, and McMillan only gets contacted if they are considering cancelling.

“They felt so comfortable this morning, I didn’t even get a call,” she says.

Meanwhile, Fryer believes the region needs to take a lesson from Eastern Ontario.

“What we need to do is start doing an earlier system — there would be an article in the news tonight saying they’ve already cancelled their buses,” he says. “How can they cancel the school buses way before the storm hits, and we’re waiting every morning at 6:30am?”

He believes an earlier warning system would also give parents the time to set up alternate childcare in adverse weather.