MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) – Despite the chilly weather, the Madison City Schools Transportation Department reports all school buses fired up Friday with no problems.
“Everything was great,” said Transportation Director Bobby Jackson. “We keep our buses maintained and our batteries checked.”
Temperatures Monday are expected to be the coldest in years. That makes the bus stop forecast uniquely bitter this January. Jackson says administrators met Friday morning to discuss contingency plans for unanticipated issues. However, he said buses - cold weather or not - are generally prompt.
"So they wouldn't be out in the cold for two, three, maybe five minutes at the most, hopefully, unless we had a bus that malfunctioned," Jackson said.
Jackson says parents can help keep things running smoothly just by being prepared and taking the time to get organized before Monday morning.
"Parents can help out a lot by just having their kids ready and even if they back out of the garage and sit in the car - that would be something they could do that would help us to stay on schedule so that someone down the route doesn't have to stand out there 10 or 15 minutes waiting on a bus."
Madison City Schools Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler says the system has two main questions that have to be answered:
"Will our buses run and run on time, and can we keep our buildings warm?"
Dr. Fowler says as far as the former is concerned, the system plans to crank up buses Sunday just to be extra sure there are no issues that could potentially affect Monday's routes. They have also been proactive by getting in contact with five substitute bus drivers who will be on call in the event a regular driver calls out sick.
As for the latter, Fowler says this is a difficult time because all the system's buildings are engineered to operate at a certain temperature. Eight degrees is obviously not the optimum scenario, Fowler says. But maintenance crews have already been checking to make sure school boilers are on the up and up.
"We will run our heat Saturday, we will run our heat Sunday - just to make sure that our buildings are staying warm."
And Fowler sheepishly reiterates - while it may seem like common sense - in single-digit weather, he says, shorts and a hoodie for students just won't cut it.
"When your child gets ready to leave, examine them and make sure they've got on what you hope they have on, not what they wanted to wear. Please dress your children warmly."
As of Friday afternoon, Madison City Schools had not made a determination on potential school delays for the coming week. They say they always like to wait until they have all the information they need before delaying school and causing unintended but unavoidable inconvenience for students and parents.
"Before we make the decision to delay," says Fowler, "we always ask 'what will we gain'."