HPSD buses will not run at -35°C

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

Going forward, High Prairie School Division (HPSD) buses will not run if the temperature is -35°C or colder, before the windchill. Previously, the cut off was -40°C.

On January 17, 2023, HPSD board of trustees passed a motion to change the rules around when buses would be cancelled.

“The new buses are not as reliable in the colder weather,” said superintendent Laura Poloz. At -35°C, the doors may freeze open, the fuel can gel, the bus may stop running part way through a route, it might not start, or it might break down and need repairs. It is also dangerous for mechanics to work on the vehicles outdoors in such cold temperatures.

Kyle Nichols, director of communications, reported on the number of days in a year, which would likely be impacted.

Based on the 2021-22 temperatures, the change from -40°C to -35°C would mean two to six more days of bus cancellations depending on where students lived in the school division.

HPSD has four different wards.

Slave Lake is in Ward #4.

Kinuso is in Ward #3.

The graph below says that in 2021-22, there were two days of -35 to -39°C in Slave Lake area and four days in Kinuso.

Not every winter is the same, as the HPSD graph shows.

The Leader followed up with Nichols about the 2015-16 gap on the graph.

In an email he says, “It was a very warm winter in 2015-16, with only two days in one ward reaching -30.6 and -31.4, and another ward reaching -31.0 for one day, but all of those days were non-instructional with no buses running. I believe that year we had El Niño for that period of winter.”

Trustee Lynn Skrepnek asked how many school divisions had the cut off at -30°C. This is what Driftpile Cree Nation school does, she added.

Nichols answered that a survey of school divisions done in 2020 didn’t list any. The survey had 62 per cent (-40°C), 11 per cent (-35°C), 21 per cent (not determined), and four per cent (not specified).

Trustee Adrian Wong asked if the change was in response to community complaints.

“We’re going to get complaints both ways,” answered Poloz. Parents complain when buses don’t run. Others complain if it is -25°C with a windchill and the buses are running. Parents always have the choice not to put their child on the bus. The reason for the proposed change is to ensure safety with is difficult with the mechanical issues of the newer buses.

Freezing rain, heavy fog, and other poor weather are other reasons that buses might not run. Also, bus drivers always have the option to cancel their route if it is unsafe.

Several years ago, HPSD considered changing the rules to include windchill. However, at that time the -40°C was upheld.

Bus cancellations do not mean that that school is canceled.

“We always keep our schools open,” said Poloz.

Ambient temperature over eight years for the four High Prairie School Division wards. The yellow (middle) bar shows how many more days the buses wouldn’t have run if the the temperature was -35 to 39°C.
Going forward, HPSD buses will not run any time it is -35°C or colder, excluding windchill.
Courtesy of High Prairie School Division.

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