For more than an hour on Wednesday morning, school bus supervisor Sharon Harris juggled two phones between parents, bus drivers and other staffers – and by 8:30 a.m., she was climbing on a bus to take a route herself.
That adventure was much less hectic than the day before, said Harris, the supervisor for Area I in Aiken and greater Aiken area.
The Aiken County School District implemented a two-hour opening delay at schools on Tuesday and Wednesday. The schedule returns to normal this morning.
On Tuesday, maintenance employees from the Aiken Bus Shop had to deal with buses in four attendance areas with batteries that wouldn’t immediately start and frozen cables that wouldn’t allow gear changes.
The problems didn’t go away entirely on Wednesday. A few buses could not be cranked, and some, but not all, spares were available. Substitutes were available to get on the road for absent drivers, which included Harris and her transportation secretary, Brandi Nickerson.
Still, “it was a lot better,” said Maria McClure, the District’s transportation manager. “We had to do some double-routing, and the biggest number of buses that wouldn’t crank was in North Augusta.”
Staffers from the maintenance shop arrived at the bus sites in each area within Aiken County between 5:30 and 6 a.m. The drivers began showing up about 6:30 a.m., even when the school arrival time for students was two hours later than the regular schedule.
“It warmed up a little more this morning, so the buses were a little quicker to start,” McClure said.
Bus Shop Director Wylie McDaniel agreed that most buses left their sites within 10 to 15 minutes. The frozen cables caused most of the problems, but with the buses running for 30 to 45 minutes, the ice melted on most of the buses.
“I was at Midland Valley High, and no buses were late as far as going out to pick up children,” McDaneil said.
Temperatures will continue to rise through the weekend. If there is another freeze this winter, “there’s not a lot you can do about it,” McClure said. “The main thing is the buses cranking.”
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.
STAFF PHOTO BY ROB NOVIT Aiken County School District bus driver Larry Stewart leaves the Area 1 bus site at Aiken High School, getting started on his route on another cold day that shut down five buses.×