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Snow day safety

When do school buses cancel services?
When do school buses cancel services?

Andrea Stockton, staff writer

February 29, 2012 — When winter storms hit, most students are eager for a snow day. How is the decision made to cancel buses and close schools?

Students always enjoy a snow day
Students always enjoy a snow day

How and when do schools determine if it will indeed be a snow day? While every school board is different, the main concern remains the same-- the safety of the students.

Jeff Fair, Manager of Administrative Services for the York Region District School Board in Ontario says the decision relies heavily on the road conditions and is made in conjunction with school bus companies.

“On inclement weather days or potential inclement weather days, there's a process in place where our school bus companies contact the manager of our transportation consortium to give them a road update,” explains Fair. “We also set our alarms early to get up and look at weather data as well as radar maps online.”

The school bus companies will recommend if the buses should run or not and Fair says a further discussion is held at that point.

“We review the recommendations, look at the ministry of environment websites, as well we look at other websites and other school boards in the area to see what their service decisions are.”

The decision to pull a bus off the road is usually made on the day of the storm after conditions begin deteriorate and the roads are deemed unsafe.

Freezing rain is a major concern on the roads for buses
Freezing rain is a major concern on the roads for buses

There are some school boards that end up closing school doors as well, but most try to remain open if they can.

“We keep our schools open in the York region, unless there is an absolute emergency, but we keep them open to provide service for students who aren't bus students and recognizing that not all students are bused and parents still need to get to work,” says Fair.

If schools do remain open during inclement weather, there are policies in place to provide a safe environment for students. Things like recess cancellations could occur to avoid windchills and slippery conditions with freezing rain.

No matter the storm or the conditions it brings, officials say it's always a tough decision to make that final call for a snow day.

“If we do cancel buses, 50 percent of the people are happy and 50 percent question the decision made and if you don't cancel buses, the opposite occurs. So it is always a bit of a challenge to make that decision,” says Fair.

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