Poor weather and road conditions throughout the boundaries of Prairie Valley School Division led to bus cancellations on routes serving White City, Balgonie, Vibank, Pilot Butte and Edenwold on Jan 20.
Even though the provincial highways ministry had issued a travel not recommended advisory on Highways 1 and 46 from Regina to Balgonie, and on Highway 33 from Regina to Sedley, where visibility was reportedly poor during the morning bus runs, some local bus routes however continued to operate.
Those advisories were posted by the Ministry of Highway and Infrastructure between 5:55 and 6:03 a.m., while policies available on PVSD’s website stated that decisions on bus cancellations would be made by either 6:15 or 6:30 a.m. each day. (An email to parents from director of education Luc Lerminiaux the previous week had provided a different time altogether, that being 6:10 a.m.)
In all, last week’s cancellations included 11 buses headed for Balgonie, three for Ecole White City School, two for Vibank and one each for Edenwold School and Pilot Butte School. No buses were cancelled for Sedley or Emerald Ridge Elementary School.
As the Prairie Valley School Division covers a large geographic area, there are times when bus service can be cancelled in some areas but not others. In those cases, individual school bus drivers can make the decision to drive their routes based on conditions, director of education Luc Lerminiaux said.
“(On Jan. 20), we had 90 of our 150 routes fully operational,” Lerminiaux told The Forum. “Certainly we have confidence in our drivers, who are trained professionals, to make that determination.”
Lerminiaux said bus drivers consult with the division about the weather conditions and will sometimes call parents along their routes as well to get localized weather reports.
“Technically the decisions aren’t made in isolation, and there is a lot of consultation with division,” Lerminiaux said. “With the gathering of all the information, it’s pretty rare that a bus driver will make their decision by themselves without some consult with division. If we are 150 kilometres away and the driver is saying there is severely limited visibility, we are going to default to the professionalism of the driver.”
Lerminiaux added that there are several variables considered for cancelling bus travel when poor weather hits the region.
“When it is the division that makes the decision to cancel (bus service), the most common time we do it is for cold weather,” Lerminiaux said. “We read the towers at 6 a.m., allow them to reset with a 10-minute grace period, so by 6:10 we make a decision on whether (a bus service cancellation is) division wide.”
Locally, the division bases its weather decisions, in part, on readings from towers in Regina, Indian Head and Broadview. If temperatures reach -40 C without a windchill, or -45 C with a windchill, bus service is cancelled across the division. If those weather thresholds are met on any of those towers, bus service to the schools served specifically by that tower are impacted, and the division aims to notify parents of service disruptions by 6:10 a.m.
Prairie Valley’s communications director Alana Johnson also confirmed there was conflicting information on various pages throughout the division’s website relating to notification of impacts to bus services, and that decisions on whether bus routes will operate are made based on weather readings at towers as of 6:10 a.m.
If there are road closures as determined by the provincial highways ministry, determinations are then made to either cancel or restore service over the course of the school day. The division tries to make those decisions by 6:10 a.m., though sometimes that happens later due to developing weather conditions, Lerminiaux said.
“We do try to give families enough notice that transportation would or would not be happening,” Lerminiaux said.
Keith Borkowsky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Quad Town Forum