WASHINGTON – Two area public school systems announced two-hour delays to the start of classes on Friday, and many students and parents who rely on school buses were faced with more problems.
In Fairfax County, about 200 school buses are experiencing “significant mechanical problems” due to the cold weather, according to a statement issued at about 8:30 a.m. The system advises parents to “take precautions to ensure that their children are not standing outside in the cold for extended periods of time.”
At about 9:30 a.m., Fairfax County schools spokesman John Torre told WTOP that “several dozen” of the county’s fleet of 1,500 buses were having problems getting started in the cold.
One of the causes, he said, was the fact that school had been out for the past two days, and buses had been parked outside in the cold.
“We were anticipating mechanical issues,” Torre says, adding that that was one of the reasons behind the two-hour delay.
Speaking at about 9:30 a.m., roughly 15 minutes after classes had started at the county’s high schools, Torre said that parents had been notified beginning at 8:30 on a school-by-school basis.
“We just want parents to be aware” of possible delays, Torre says.
Reminded by WTOP’s Mike Moss that some parents had probably had two days away from work, and had left for their jobs this morning trusting that their kids would be able to get the school bus as usual, Torre said, “We understand the problems associated with this. Our mechanics are out in the field working to get these buses up and running.”
He added that, given the proportion of the county’s fleet that was grounded, “it is not a widespread problem.”
After announcing their two-hour delay, Prince William County Public Schools posted a warning to parents on its website that significant bus delays are possible in unplowed or unpaved areas.
In addition to the unexpected delays, parents have the option to “keep children home if they have safety concerns.”
Phil Kavitz, a spokesman for the county school system, told WTOP on Friday morning that the system had its usual 800 buses on the roads and were “making an effort” to get to every stop.
While the “vast majority” of roads in the county are clear and passable, Kavitz says, he reiterated the warning from the website — if the school bus doesn’t show up within 20 minutes of its regular time, parents should bring kids back home or find another way to get students to school.
He added that the system issued the warning on their Facebook page at about 8:30 Thursday night.
The county also says that parents should avoid leaving children unattended at these stops: