Transportation department combats polar vortex

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Transportation department combats polar vortex

An HSE schools' bus leaves Fishers High School along Hoosier Road on Jan. 29 in freezing temperatures.

An HSE schools' bus leaves Fishers High School along Hoosier Road on Jan. 29 in freezing temperatures.

Photo by Kristen Rummel.

An HSE schools' bus leaves Fishers High School along Hoosier Road on Jan. 29 in freezing temperatures.

Photo by Kristen Rummel.

Photo by Kristen Rummel.

An HSE schools' bus leaves Fishers High School along Hoosier Road on Jan. 29 in freezing temperatures.

By Helen Rummel, Fishers High School

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Indiana reached record low temperatures on Jan. 30 according to WTHR. The HSE school district canceled school for both Wednesday and Thursday due to “extreme cold temperatures.”

Buses are often considered by the transportation department when temperatures drop below freezing. The district takes extra measures during this season in hopes of aiding students and bus drivers against dangerously cold conditions.

Once winter begins, a mechanic checks each bus to ensure safety. From there, bus drivers can report any issues they notice to be looked into further. This system is supported through an electronic maintenance program.

Regularly, bus drivers arrive at their lot between 5:30 and 6 a.m. to ensure that buses start correctly. Additionally, HSE Transportation director, Zach McKinney, starts testing the roads near 4:15 a.m. when there is a possibility for a delay or cancellation.

Buses require much more time than regular vehicles to warm up due to their larger size. Bus driver Robin Rodriguez finds that, in especially cold temperatures, it can take up to an hour and a half for a bus to reach a suitable temperature. HSE transportation will have a team of people to start buses earlier if the conditions are especially cold. Intermittently, buses do not start at all.

“I think sometimes [starting issues are] temperature-related because it’s usually the older buses,” Rodriguez said.

Occasionally, buses not starting causes issues for the transportation department, but these issues are typically resolved quickly, explains McKinney.

“The last time we had a delay we had about 6 out of 308 buses that wouldn’t start on their own,” McKinney said. “Once we were able to hook additional batteries to them, we got all but one to start.”

The transportation department emphasizes that these precautions are to keep students safe. When temperatures decline, Rodriguez shared that sometimes students will wait for their buses in warmer locations, which she recommended.

“I don’t mind waiting because they need to be where this wind won’t get them,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t want anybody getting hurt or sick.”

This story was originally published on N the Red on January 30, 2019.