After spending a significant amount of time clearing the snow off her Landmark school bus this morning, Rose Asma looked down her unplowed street with exasperation.
Regardless, as the Simcoe County Student Transportation Consortium hadn’t cancelled buses for public and Catholic school boards on Friday, she got in her bus and started out on her journey.
“It was atrocious. It took a while to even get out of the driveway,” Asma said. “When I radioed in, all I could hear from all of our drivers was, ‘We can’t see anything'.
“How was this morning safe for children?” said Alma.
The Simcoe County Transportation Consortium oversees student transportation for both the Simcoe County District School Board and the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board, and has contracts with school bus providers such as Landmark and First Student to provide those services.
The consortium makes the decision on whether or not to cancel buses on a particular day based on weather.
Asma’s regular morning route takes her through Wasaga Beach, through Clearview and into Collingwood. This morning, she said her bus was sparsely attended, with many parents opting to keep their kids home. Alma says she doesn’t understand why the consortium made the call to not cancel buses on Friday.
“It was already snowing really bad this morning. It was terrible. This isn’t OK,” she said. “(The consortium) should be held accountable for why they sent drivers out. We just want to know why.”
The consortium’s chief executive officer, Kim Malkamaki, says typically the process for determining bus cancellations starts the day before.
“In this case, this morning was an unexpected blizzard that rolled in. Nobody was really prepared or expecting that this morning,” Malkamaki said Friday afternoon. “The decision was made for the buses to be running.”
Malkamaki says that since buses ran in the morning, they will also run in the afternoon.
“They will follow all of their safety precautions,” she said.
As of the morning of Feb. 3, the consortium had noted nearly 70 delayed routes on their website during the morning run. Malkamaki says it accounts for five per cent of their vehicles being delayed.
“All students were transported safely to their schools. There were zero accidents, and zero service issues,” she said. “Delays are normal. This goes to support the decision that was made.”
Most high school students did not have class today as the first semester has ended and the second starts next week.
Malkamaki says safety precautions are determined by each contractor, however if a driver were to approach a roadway that hasn’t been serviced by a plow or has been closed for safety, they have a process to not service those stops.
“They also have a process to wait out white-out conditions,” she said.
Road conditions across Simcoe County have been an issue on Friday, with Highway 26 from Sunnidale Corners to the Mosley Street roundabout closed midday due to deteriorating conditions. Police advised caution when driving and are asking drivers around Stayner, Creemore, and Collingwood to avoid unnecessary travel.
When reached for comment Friday afternoon, Collingwood OPP Const. Martin Hachey said as of noon on Friday, Collingwood/Blue Mountain OPP had received one report of a vehicle in a ditch to their collision reporting centre, while Huronia West OPP had received seven reports and Nottawasaga OPP had received one report. Hachey noted there were no injuries listed in any of the reports.
“If the weather is bad and you don’t feel comfortable being out there, stay at home,” said Hachey. “If you do have to venture out, be patient.
“That’s winter driving,” he added.