(American Press Archives)
Calcasieu Parish school buses transport thousands of students to and from school each day.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 07, 2014 4:05 PM
With abnormally cold temperatures expected in the Lake Area this week, the Calcasieu Parish School Board Transportation Department is working hard to ensure students arrive safely at school.
Andy Ardoin, CPSB director of transportation, said he emailed bus drivers Saturday asking them to start their buses and check fluids. Ardoin said CPSB mechanics worked Saturday and Sunday to fix any reported problems.
Ardoin said 14 buses wouldn’t start Monday morning, two of those had to be towed in.
“I started getting calls at 5 a.m. this morning. Most of the issues were battery-related,” Ardoin said. “Batteries are weak, and they don’t like the cold. Sometimes there’s just not enough juice to start, and we have to send a truck to jump them off.”
Ardoin said he had mechanics on stand-by at 5:30 a.m. Monday in preparation. He said the department would do the same today.
“It’s going to be colder (Tuesday) — in the teens,” Ardoin said. “We sent another email out and sent phone messages to drivers for (Tuesday) based on the weather report to remind them and gave them tips.”
Ardoin also sent emails to principals letting them know that some buses may run late. Ardoin said if a bus is broken down or running late, the department contacts the school principal normally by 6:30 a.m. “The principal should then notify parents if buses are running late,” he said.
Ardoin said School Board policy is for students to be at the bus stop 5-10 minutes prior to pick-up time. However, with these rare, extreme weather conditions, he has asked drivers to be flexible.
“If it’s 20 degrees, kids aren’t going to be standing out there, and they shouldn’t be,” he said. “So we tell our drivers during weather like this to slow down, look for students under canopies, porches or front doors and wait a few moments.”
Ardoin said the transportation department is responsible for picking up 16,000 students every school day, with 339 bus routes running daily. When weather is this cold, there will always be some transportation issue, he said.
Ardoin said his biggest concern is a child standing on the side of the road in the cold for a long period of time when a bus is late or broken down.
“Parents may be gone to work, the house may be locked,” he said. “We try to impress to the drivers to treat these children as if they were your grandchild. We are talking about children’s safety and well-being.”
According to Ardoin, bus drivers help each other and cooperate regarding picking other students up when there is a problem.
“All of our buses have two-way radios for us to communicate,” he said. “The kids may be late, but we will get them off the road and get them to school.”
Ardoin said his job in transportation is to ensure that students get to and from school, regardless of what weather conditions may be.