Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

January 31, 2014

Some Mercer County buses stall due to bitter cold

PRINCETON — Bitter cold and stalled school buses combined Thursday to make the morning commute difficult for many Mercer County’s students.

Mercer County schools were on a two-hour delay, but the temperatures were lower than expected, said public information specialist Kellan Sarles.

“The weather was not as predicted,” she stated. “They were colder than what was predicted, and the warm-up was more sluggish than what was predicted as well.”

The low temperatures impacted the diesel engines on a large number of buses.

Joe Turner, assistant superintendent of secondary education, said 25 percent of the school system’s bus fleet, about 20 buses, either could not start or traveled only a short distance after starting. He said the school system could not find any cases of a school bus stalling with children on board.

The Mercer County school system has a telephone calling system that is used to send alerts to households, Turner said. Messages are sent to the telephone numbers provided by parents. A message informing parents that some buses were delaying or not running was sent at 9:35 a.m.

Households that are not on this system can contact their children’s school, Turner said. Parents should make sure they have provided a current telephone number. Bus drivers also try to inform parents, he added.

“Our bus drivers try to call the students on their routes to let them know they were not coming,” he said.

One parent said her four children were waiting in the cold for almost half an hour before a passerby told them that their bus was not coming.

“They left the house at 8:45 (a.m.), and the older two came back with the younger ones at 9:10 (a.m.)” said Shauna Phinazee, 29, of Bluefield. “They said the bus hadn’t come yet, and a truck pulled up and told them the bus wasn’t coming.”

Phinazee later received a recorded message from the board of education.

“I got a call at 9:53 (a.m.) from the board of education that the bus wasn’t running,” she said, adding parents should have been informed about the problems sooner. “The recording said some buses were not running, and we could take them to school, but if not, it was an excused absence.”

Phinazee said her youngest child’s face was “bright red” from the cold despite being bundled up in warm clothes.

“It was like only 7 or 11 degrees out there,” she said. “I kept them at home because I do not have my own vehicle.”

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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