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Several states have seen severe weather this past month. That is causing schools to cancel classes, field trips and update their routes, to adhere to the driving conditions.  School transportation departments nationwide take different approaches to combat the various weather conditions in their regions.

California saw a downpour of rain last month, causing flooding in various cities. Malibu Unified School District closed Jan. 15 and 16 as a precaution against mudslides and debris flow made worse by recent fires.

Watauga Schools in North Carolina was hit with a sudden change in forecast.  The Transportation Director Jeff Lyons said the school district dismissed early on Wednesday last week because the weather forecast was for rain and snow.  “The forecast was completely wrong, and we started getting a lot of snow, with white-out conditions in some areas of the county,” Lyons explained. “I would say for some places, depending on where we were in the county, we got one to three inches in a span of about an hour and a half. The roads turned pretty treacherous, pretty quick.”

While the forecast didn’t turn out the way Lyons was expecting, the transportation department was able to adapt to the weather and make adjustments as needed. The transportation personnel started contacting parents right away to make arrangements and altered routes on the spot, Lyons said.  “All the children got home and were taken home safely and that’s our goal,” Lyons added.

Usually with anticipated bad weather, the school district will change its transportation routes. Lyons said they run a normal route, as well as Limited Route A and Limited Route B, depending on the severity of the storm and the road conditions. The routes are given to parents at the start of each school year, and parents are notified of the route change by phone call, social media and website updates.

San Bernardino School District in Southern California also had to cancel its field trip into the mountains last week, due to snow.  While all of their buses are equipped with snow chains, Eric Vetere, the district’s safety and emergency manager said that the district must also consider the activities the children are doing while they are out.

Many school districts are allocated so many days per year for weather cancellations. Stephen Lee, a school bus driver for six years at the Durango School District in Colorado, said usually it is up to the local school districts to decide on snow days, but last week an official for the county called it, because the storm had approached too fast.  “We have what they call, automatic snow chains on our buses,” Lee said. “They are air actuated, there’s a switch on our dashboard. And if you get into an area that requires a snow chain, you can hit that and it’s a wheel with chains spread out from it.”

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