Ice impacts start of school day for several districts

(Western Mass News photo)

Driving school buses may not be easy, but imagine having to do so on a road full of ice.

The unsafe conditions forced some schools to delay school Thursday morning.

It's a decision just as important to the bus companies as it is to those who teach in the classrooms.

Bus doors opened up across western Massachusetts to pick up students for another school day after this storm, but their biggest concern is doing it safely.

Their biggest challenge today? Not the snow, but the ice.

"No traction and once you start to slip, you're going wherever God wants you to go. Icy roads are certainly the biggest nemesis," said Ray Schmuck with Durham School Services.

Durham School Services is in charge of districts across the state and the country, but in Holyoke, things were not looking good when Schmuck and his crew got to the yard at 4:30 a.m., preparing for a normal school day.

They arrived to a sheet of ice in the yard, buses filled from front to back with sheets of ice, and some buses even struggling to start.

"You got to clean the windshields, got to clean all the mirrors," Schmuck added.

The roads coming in weren't so great either, forcing more than a dozen schools to delay.

Schmuck told Western Mass News that a heavy bus has the potential to slide just as much - if not more - than a car once it gets moving.
That information was passed along to Superintendent Steve Zrike, whose phone was buzzing all morning with other schools trying to make a decision.
"This morning, there were texts going back and forth assessing collectively what we thought made the most sense for our communities," Zrike explained.
Ultimately, the call was a two hour delay. It gave the buses time to warm up, gave public works crews a chance to clear school property, and allow roadways to be salted for safe pick-up and drop-off.
"Our needs are much different than smaller, suburban communities, just given that we have many more buses. Many, many students who rely on walking to school," Zrike noted.
Zrike told Western Mass News that two hour delays can be a heavy hit on attendance, especially when announced just hours before the first bell, but at the end of the day, he wants his students to get to school only one way - safely -and that's exactly what was done today.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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