LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – The state's largest school district is heading back to class Wednesday after winter break. That means early morning bus rides in the brutal cold for more than a 100,000 students. It also means hundreds of buses and drivers are getting ready to transport them.
“We have approximately 950 route buses rolling tomorrow morning,” JCPS Transportation Director Randy Frantz said. “We were at each of our 13 compounds on Friday warming up those buses making sure they were starting and good to go. We were also there very early this morning to warm up those buses for a couple of hours.”
Frantz said those winter warming crews will be at each of the depots dark and early Wednesday morning, as well.
“Depending on the year, make, and model, it may take some buses longer. That's why we have mechanics on site at each of our compounds. If a bus does not start, it's great to have a certified mechanic on site to help get those batteries turned over and those buses warmed up,” Frantz said.
The district also plans ahead this time of year, making sure the next few rounds of fuel won't freeze easily. Each batch comes with an extra winter additive to help the diesel not gel up as much when the temperatures drop this low. Another key to success comes with sticking to the schedule.
"The best thing we can do is try our best as possible to be on time,” Frantz said.
The winter warm-up crews have the buses handled no matter what time they're needed. District leaders decide when they will roll based on several factors like snow and sudden temperature changes.
"Is the temperature going to increase at a rapid pace where if we did delay, it would be an added benefit to the district and the students of the district,” Frantz said.
Frantz said Wednesday's forecast doesn't fill that requirement.
"The temperature is not going to change a lot between 6 and 9 am, so it's going to be cold at 6 and cold at 9, the same degree of cold,” Frantz said.
When it comes to temperatures, JCPS won't delay unless the wind chill hits negative 10 or below. It hasn't canceled for extreme cold since 2014 when we saw a negative 25-degree wind chill. The district ensures it'll do everything it can to make this cold return as comfortable as possible and said you can help your kids, too.
"Obviously, kids can benefit from sitting in a car at the bus stop, but if not, but if not, be sure to cover those layers of skin and just bundle up as much as possible,” Frantz said.
Conditions like this tend to make for some longer days, but JCPS says its drivers' dedication trumps any fatigue the freezing temperatures may bring.
“There's some increased hours, but we've got 1,000 community heroes on the road each and every day. The winter does add an extra variable to ensure that we can get our kids safely to and from school each day. So dread it? No, but there are some increased hours,” Frantz said. “This is another day to them, just with an extra wrench.”
JCPS also wants to remind parents to sign up for the One Call Now system. The district said that's the best way to stay updated with the most recent delays or changes to the daily schedule.
“Our plan is to go on time tomorrow, and should things change, we will be sure to communicate it in an effective manner,” Frantz said.