Snowy School Bus. (Photo by © Can Stock Photo / PiLens).

Many Factors Behind School Bus Cancellations

While some parents are concerned school buses were still running in Wednesday’s snowy conditions, a transportation official says there is a whole system behind these calls.

Kent Orr is the general manager of the Chatham-Kent Lambton Administrative School Services (CLASS). He says there is a robust process in place that applies to the entire district, which includes Lambton, Sarnia, and Chatham-Kent. Within this district, there are eight individual weather zones.

Within these zones, Orr says a group of spotters drive around to get on the ground information about road conditions, visibility, and snow plows. He says this information is then sent to zone captains in each area.

“We take a look at things like the Environment Canada statements, watches, or warnings, the weather forecasts, and also, current weather radar that’s going on,” explains Orr. “We’re also tapped into the municipality’s information on their plows — where they’ve been out, how often they’ve been out, and where their status is at.”

Once all that information is put together, Orr says they have to make a decision by 6am to cancel the school buses. He says this deadline is in place to allow enough time to notify parents so they can make alternate arrangements.

He says visibility and snow conditions can worsen throughout the morning after parents are notified. He says a number of school buses ran late on Wednesday morning, because drivers had to take extra safety precautions.

“Within our area in the morning in the Chatham-Kent region, we had about 265 bus runs. And out of those 265 runs, we had about 30% that actually had delays of 10 minutes or more. 70% of the buses this morning functioned perfectly fine,” says Orr.

He says it is ultimately the parent’s choice whether they want to put their child on the bus.

“We recognize that not everyone is going to agree with our calls–whether we cancel or whether we run. We have to make those calls early in the morning based on the information we have… if they don’t feel comfortable, it’s their responsibility and their right to not put their kids on the bus and we respect that,” says Orr.