MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - "We run 219 buses every day," says Dan Evans. He's the Madison County Schools Director of Operations.
That's a lot of opportunities for something to go wrong, so they start prepping well ahead of time. Evans tells us, "The preparation for cold weather begins months and months ahead of time. We service our buses every 20 days. Our mechanics keep them in great mechanical shape. We do fuel additives for cold weather."
But the preps don't stop during cold weather, they intensify.
Evans remembers on Tuesday, "We were out at 4:45 or 5 starting every bus."
That gives them some leeway before buses have to leave the lot. Evans continues, "If they're an elementary bus, around 6, 6:15. A high school bus, around 7, 7:15. We wanted to give them plenty of time to make sure if we did have a bus that wouldn't start we could get a mechanic to it."
After all, Evans elaborates, "Our buses are located at 29 different sites, so it's a challenge to get from one end of the county to the other."
Evans notes the process worked Tuesday morning, "We had two that I know that we actually got the mechanics to, but they were running before 6."
He knows they need to work again Wednesday morning, "We have to make sure that our buses run because we have children that are out in the rural areas. Parent may be gone to work. We don't want them standing on the road for 35 minutes waiting for a late bus."
To make sure that happens, Evans needs the help of parents, "We just need them to first, monitor the news. Make sure if we're going to be a delayed start, that your child is not out there waiting on a bus that's not coming. Or that you're not dropping your child off at a school that's not open."
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That said, it also helps to make sure your kid can get on the bus as soon as it arrives at the stop.
A ruthlessly efficient schedule might make timing more consistent, but they're not going to just leave a kid that they see in the rear-view mirror trying to chase down the bus.
"It may take an extra 30 seconds to wait on them," Evans assures, "but we're going to wait, we're not going to leave that child behind."
But for each kid they wait on, kids further down the route have to wait too, maybe out in the cold.
Still, they aren't telling kids to be out there ten minutes before the bus or anything.
Evans simply asks, "If you have a line-of-sight, once you see that bus turning on your street, go ahead and get out there and be ready to go."
Just remember that delays add up quickly, which isn't fair to kids later on the route.
Be prepared, so you can help everyone spend at little time as possible out in the elements.