Hopkins Schools Open; School Buses Battle Bad Roads

Posted at 8:50 PM, Feb 21, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-21 22:37:55-05

ALLEGAN COUNTY, Mich. — About 5 school buses had issues on the roads in Hopkins, according to Hopkins Schools Superintendent Chris Stephens.

Some lost traction and at least one slid off into a snow bank.

So what led up to the district’s decision not to close school for the day?

“This morning was a tough call this morning. We were out on the roads at 4:00 this morning checking roads between 4:00 and 5:00,” he said.

Stephens explained, “Temperature was about 36 degrees, and roads were not great but doable.”

However, between 5:15 and 5:45 a.m., he said the temperature dropped about 4 degrees.

“And we had some roads that iced up,” Stephens added.

The back rural roads, he said, are some of the worst.

“We’ve got some hilly areas that got slippery, and so our buses tried to get down there. The multiple starts and stops cause us problems, and we had some buses that slid off the road a little bit and had to be either pulled off or change their route and in some cases we had some routes that we couldn’t finish,” Stephens explained.

Stephens said the school called parents.

A parent shared a letter with FOX 17 that the district sent out via e-mail and text alert with a time stamp of 7:40 a.m.

It’s subject line reads “Late Buses” and reads:

Due to our changing road conditions this morning, we have some buses that were running late. In some cases, buses were unable to get down roads. If your child is still waiting for a bus, it is unlikely it is able to pick them up. If possible, please make other arrangements to transport them to school. We are sorry for this inconvenience. If you are unable to get your child to school, please contact the school office to let them know.

The district has used 12 snow days so far this winter, according to Stephens.  Considering that extends the school year, FOX 17 asked if ‘snow day use’ played into the decision of whether or not to close school again. Stephens said it didn’t. He said students’ safety comes first.

“It goes into the fact that, if I know I’m going to get complaints either way… if we do have [school] and the conditions are rougher than normal, I’m going to have people that aren’t happy with that. And if I call a snow day, I’m going to have people that aren’t happy with that because we have to make up in June,” he said.

“If we have to make up more days, we have to make up more days,” Stephens said.

Stephens said he watches the forecast, checks the roads himself and talks to the county road commission and the districts transportation director when deciding about closing school.
Parents criticized the district’s the decision not close school for the day on social media.

“There’s no question that I am not going to keep 100% of the people happy with the decisions I make. That’s why I fall on the decision of keeping kids safe as our primary goal. Today the conditions changed. We have that a couple times this winter,” Stephens said.