Windsor

To cancel or not to cancel: Who makes the 'snow day' call?

An Amherstburg town councillor wants to know who is accountable for determining when buses are cancelled.

'If they are not comfortable with putting their child on the bus, they don't need to..."

(The Associated Press)

Rick Fryer wants to know why school buses in Windsor and Essex weren't cancelled this morning.

The Amherstburg town councillor said he expected bus cancellations when he was driving into Windsor early Wednesday morning.

"The roads were really bad coming from the county, inside Windsor, no one saw a snow plow anywhere," he said.

Buses were not cancelled, despite road conditions. Two county buses, ended up in ditches — both with students on board. Another bus was involved in a collision with a car. It was not carrying students at the time.

"Who is accountable when it's fog days, when it's snow days. When the weather is not conducive, who mandates the drivers to drive?" said Fryer. He said he hears that question all the time as a councillor.

Who makes the call

There are six bus companies that serve the schools in Windsor and Essex County. Those companies decide whether or not the roads are safe enough, and they report that information to Windsor Essex Student Transportation Services.

If [parents] are not comfortable with putting their child on the bus, they don't need to put their child on the bus.- Gabrielle  McMillan , general manager, Windsor Essex Student Transportation Services

"The majority of the decision lies with the bus operators," said Gabrielle McMillan, general manager of Windsor Essex Student Transportation Services

McMillan explained that each bus company has what are called "spotters," who travel in the county and city to determine if the roads are safe. There are about 21 spotters in the Windsor-Essex region.  

The accident occurred on 14th Concession Road between Walker Side Road and Old Malden Road. No one was injured. (OPP)
"They felt comfortable that they could drive safely." - Gabrielle McMillan, general manager, Windsor Essex Student Transportation Services

The bus companies use that information to alert Student Transportation Services, but only if they think the road conditions warrant cancellations.

Mcmillan said she did not hear from a single operator today. 

"They didn't call me today because they agreed that visibility was good, there was no drifting in the county, that there had been salt out there and we were only expecting two-and-a-half, 3 inches of snow," she said. "They felt comfortable that they could drive safely."  

What happens in an accident    

McMillan said when there is an accident with any bus carrying students the bus company is notified, emergency services are called, and another bus is sent to pick up the kids and take them to school.    

I don't think it's safe.- Laura Lee Moore, parent

"[EMS] go on board, and they ask the kids 'Are there any issues or is anyone hurt?' and they will check them over," said McMillan.

She said the bus operator and the school discuss who will notify parents that there has been an accident.

McMillan said she does get phone calls from parents about the cancellation protocol.

"At the end of the day we remind parents that, if they are not comfortable with putting their child on the bus, they don't need to put their child on the bus," she said.

Worried Parents 

Leamington resident Laura Lee Moore decided to switch her son's school so that he wouldn't have to take a bus down county roads. Moore's son commuted by bus to Western Secondary School before he switched.

It shouldn't be left to a handful of people to decide that. I really feel for these bus drivers.- Laura Lee Moore, parent

"I don't think that it's safe," she said. "He did it for a couple of years and the worry that I had — I made sure he took his cellphone to school so he could text me when he got there."

Moore said she felt pressured to send him to school even when she felt the roads might not be safe, because she had to go to work.

"You can't use the bus isn't running as an excuse," she said. "And it shouldn't be left to a handful of people to decide that. I really feel for these bus drivers."

Other parents weighed in on CBC Windsor's Facebook page:

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