Scores of Lawrence school district students were left standing at bus stops in sub-zero temperatures Monday morning because some diesel-powered school buses were unable to start in the cold, officials from the district's transportation service said.
Jen Biddinger, a spokeswoman in the Cincinnati headquarters of First Student, said eight of the district's 77 buses were unable to start Monday because the cold temperatures caused diesel fuel to “gel up,” which prevented them from being started.
She said the problem affected larger school buses that can carry up to 50 passengers at a time, meaning as many as 400 students may have experienced bus delays.
“It was a very unusual situation,” Biddinger said.
One parent who contacted the Journal-World said she was frustrated when her daughter was left standing at her bus stop near Corpus Christi Church, 6001 Bob Billings Parkway. The woman, who asked not to be identified, said her daughter usually gets on the bus at 7:30 a.m., but neither the bus company nor the school district contacted parents to let them know the buses were delayed.
“One of my neighbors decided to take all the kids who were standing there to school,” the woman said.
According to National Weather Service reports, the 7 a.m. temperature in Lawrence was -6 degrees.
Biddinger said First Student notified the school district, and tried to dispatch other buses to cover the routes of those that were delayed. She said the longest reported delay was 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, Superintendent Rick Doll, said in an email that First Student attempts to notify parents when the buses are delayed.
“The bus route delays were unexpected,” Doll said. “We apologize to school families who experienced delays. I know that some parents chose to transport their children to school and others were able to wait with their children in a warm vehicle.”
Although some nearby school districts canceled classes Monday due to predicted cold temperatures, Lawrence schools remained open.
“We always consult with the bus company before making a determination about school,” Doll said. “First Student didn’t expect to have any difficulties as long as buses were given ample time to warm up. We apologize for the delays and will keep these issues in mind in the future.”