The recent deep freeze in the northwest caused more work for school bus operators and resulted in some time off for students.
About 80 bus routes were cancelled Thursday — the entire fleet that services several school boards west of Thunder Bay.
Staff members at the Iron Range bus lines headquarters in Thunder Bay had to start their mornings earlier this week to warm up the fleet as overnight temperatures dropped below -30C, said general manager Eric Lehto.
"It takes longer for the buses to warm up, buses are started earlier," he said.
"All our buses do have block heaters, so they're plugged in. It takes that little bit longer to have them warm up in the morning."
Despite these measures, the interior cabins don't start warming up until the buses are actually moving — and even then, they don't warm up much, Lehto added.
For that reason, in a number of communities west of Thunder Bay, buses are kept off the road if it's too cold. Many students get the day off as a result.
"When the actual ambient temperature reaches -40C, the school bus system will shut down," said Judi Green, general manager of the Northwestern Ontario Student Services Consortium.
"One of the misconceptions is that, as soon as the engine is turned over, the inside of the bus starts to warm up, which is not the case. In fact, heat is not thrown until the wheels actually start to turn on the bus."
Lehto added the answer isn’t as simple as adding heaters to the bus cabin.
"It comes down to … for kids as well as the drivers … wearing appropriate winter wear, being dressed for the season," he said. "When it's that cold out, you have to be prepared."
Green said the school bus providers in her area have done a great job keeping buses running buses during the cold snap.