We have recently published a comprehensive list of alternate “snow” bus routes that we could potentially use in periods of inclement weather. There have been some fantastic questions raised and we wanted to take a moment to clarify a few things.
“Will these alternate routes be used every time there is snow on the roads?”
No. Use of these routes is dependent upon main artery roads being safe for travel. We are coordinating our alternate system with VDOT so that they are aware of which roads need attention in order for these routes to be implemented.
“Does this mean we will never close school again for snow?”
No. It is absolutely possible that we will need to close schools again for inclement weather, even with these alternative routes in place. Main artery roads need to be safe for travel before we implement these routes. It should also be noted that these alternative routes are disruptive for many parents’ schedules. They enable us to open schools but they still require that people make arrangements that often pose an inconvenience.
These routes will only be used when (a) the main roads that feed the routes are safe for buses and (b) our only alternative would be to close the schools.
“Will there be approximate pick up/drop off times posted?”
Parents are now asked to meet the buses five minutes before the pick-up/drop-off time. When and if we implement these routes, we ask parents arrive at the stops ten minutes early.
“What about children who don’t have transportation to get to the alternate stops?”
The alternate bus routes do provide an opportunity to open schools during extended periods of inclement weather, provided the main arteries of travel that “feed” the alternate stops are clear and safe. The alternate routes, however, are not convenient for families and they do not fully mitigate the disruption that comes with schedule changes related to unsafe road conditions.
Late openings, early dismissals, and school cancellations disrupt the patterns of many families routines. Parents are forced to make childcare arrangements, sometimes at the last minute. Often parents find it necessary to miss work so they can be home with their children.
The bus routes address some of that, but not all. Anything other than door-to-door transportation service will necessitate parents arranging for children to be brought to the common stop identified in the alternate route system. If it’s raining or excessively cold, some may find taking their children to the alternate stop problematic.
Alternate routes are typically only implemented when the division is in danger of missing an inordinate number of days. They enable us to open schools and continue instruction; they do not solve many of the convenience issues parents face during weather-related schedule changes.
“Does this mean children will be dropped off at the alternate stops in the afternoon and parents will need to be there to pick them up?”
Yes. Parents will need to arrange to meet the bus at the alternate stop ten minutes earlier than their regular drop-off time. Though this will cause disruption to many parents’ schedules, I can assure you will only implement these routes when the alternative would be an entire day of absence. Unfortunately there is no other method of establishing an alternate route that avoids unsafe, uncleared secondary roads except to implement stops that are not door-to-door.
“What if I determine that the conditions are not safe for me to transport my child to the alternate bus stop. Will my child’s absence be excused?”
Yes. On days when our schools are open using the alternate snow routes, we will excuse absences for students whose parents are unable to transport to and from the alternate bus route. Students who drive whose parents deem the conditions unsafe for driving will also be excused on days when the alternative routes are implemented.