Bus cancellations over the last few days have been visibly understandable.
Snow squalls and heavy precipitation ruled the day.
Today’s news of parked buses has many in Simcoe County shaking their heads. Despite the sunny sky you see, it just may have been the right call.
The Simcoe County Student Transportation Consortium provides student transportation services within Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) and the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board (SMCDSB). The tough call on whether or not to post bus cancellations falls on the SCSTC and it’s a decision they don’t take lightly.
Sean Levasseur is the safety and accessibility officer with the independent organization and hopes parents who are upset with the calls being made will take a look at the reasons why.
“We do understand and appreciate parent’s concerns, but these calls are made based on an informed process,” said Levasseur. “We have 12 snow captains throughout the region who are out at 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. monitoring roads and conditions at the time, and what’s being called for what’s coming. It is not a decision we take lightly and safety is always our concern.”
The safety of more than 715 vehicle operators and more than 34,000 students is first and foremost, said Levasseur.
The process of deciding whether or not to run buses actually starts the day before around noon. Weather patterns are monitored and tracked at lunch for the day and in the early mornings of a day where cancellations are made.
People in 12 zones of the county are up and out the door while most people are sleeping. For approximately two hours, conditions are noted. At 5:30 a.m., a conference call between the captains is made. That’s where the final decision is based.
“What a lot of people forget is that while some live on a main road and see clear streets, we have thousands of families on side roads and particularly rural areas where on a day like today it’s a sheet of ice,” said Levasseur. “Sure, the day may warm up enough to melt some ice, but this morning, I passed streets that I could have skated on. We are not going to put any lives at risk simply because we don’t want to upset a few families.”
Today, in the early hours there was freezing rain and conditions were very unsafe. Levasseur knows that regardless of the scientific aspect of the job, there is a human element, an element that will always have room for animosity no matter the circumstance.
“When we make the call, it’s a time where the conditions are not ideal,” said Levasseur. “If we wait a couple hours, folks will be upset we left it too long. When we say buses are good to go, we get calls from people upset that even they could tell it was too icy to go out; we all have the Monday-Morning-Quarterback in us but it truly is down to the information we have at the time we have to make it.”
There are also the many rumours that surround the decisions made by the SCSTC regarding why the calls are made and Levasseur wants to put them to rest.
“There’s a lot of folklore out there as to why we do what we do,” said Levasseur. “People like to throw in the back-in-my-day we didn’t have this many snow days, was there a lawsuit that made them be over-cautious, and is there a new guy or girl in charge? I assure you I’ve been here for about 10 years, there hasn’t been a legal reason for our decisions and we had plenty of snow days when I was growing up. What we didn’t have was the up and down aspect of the weather changes. One minute it’s freezing rain, then heavy snow, then plus temperatures. In Simcoe County, we are also surrounded by lakes and lake-effect weather that is very unpredictable.”
Levasseur knows that no matter how many calls he answers or how well his explanations are, people will always call in and want to give their opinion. The long-time SCSTC officer welcomes anyone who wants to know more and is always up for respectful communication.
“It’s another reason why I’m here, why we’re here,” said Levasseur. “We’re all in this county together and everyone has a right to know what’s happening. We are just a call away, I just ask for two-way respectable communication and honestly most people are very good about it. Nine times out ten, when I’m done speaking with a person they let me know that they never thought of that and leave with more of an appreciation of what we do.”
For info and updates on bus cancellations, follow the SCSTC on Twitter @SCSTC_SchoolBus