By Jeff Gallatin
School district officials are jump-starting ways of trying to avoid having bitter cold weather sideline district vehicles again.
At the Jan. 15 regular school board meeting, Superintendent Mike Zalar said the district is purchasing new equipment and outlined for school board members the sequence of events that led to the district calling off school again on Jan. 8, as bitter weather caused 10 of the district’s 24 regular route and five special education buses to not start.
The sidelining of that many buses would have meant some district students waiting for buses that had already made one trip to return and pick up another group of students. Zalar said given the cold weather, he decided to call off school for the third straight winter weather or snow day, rather than risk students’ health by making them stay out in the frigid weather waiting for a bus.
“The safety of our students is our first priority,” Zalar said, noting the call to cancel school came later than usual as the district made an effort to get enough buses started.
He said district staff were in at 2 a.m. to start the buses and attempt to get them warmed up, but found at that point only two buses would start. Workers continued to work on them, including bringing in a jump starter. However, the bitter cold continued to hamper the vehicles and the equipment.
“The jump starter is 43 years old, so it was somewhat helpful, but not in the best condition,” he said. “And it was so cold the diesel fuel clumped together and coagulated, so that didn’t help, either.”
Zalar said as the normal school start time approached and he saw there still were vehicle issues as well as bitter cold, he decided to call off school one more day.
“It helped that we had already been out two days because of the weather and people were checking,” he said. “Mrs. (communications/grants manager Vera) Brewer had done a good job of letting everybody know what was going on. And the weather didn’t begin warming up until later in the day, so it was just as well not to have the students out in it.”
Zalar said the district bought eight new bus batteries, a new jump starter and related equipment to help start the buses quicker if there is similar future cold weather.
He noted other school systems in Parma and Akron had similar vehicle problems.