When wintry conditions hit the metro, administrators from Bellevue Public Schools will drive along bus routes early in the morning to determine if bus drivers can safely maneuver through neighborhoods.
Richard Casey, director of transportation, started his shift at 4 a.m. Monday to monitor road and weather conditions, he says.
“We can do a preemptive strike – if you will – and have our crews ready in an event we do have buses stuck,” Casey says. “In some cases, we know areas where we just know we can't get a bus into because of steep hills and traditionally areas that don't get sanded early.”
With nearly 25 percent of the student population relying on the service, he says bus transportation is one of several factors in determining whether schools will remain open or close.
Each day, the district uses more than 70 buses to transport students, Casey says.
However, bus drivers got lucky Monday with the weather but that is not always the case.
“We have a great relationship with the city [of Bellevue]. So they help us out if we know we have a bus stuck or in an area that they can't pass. They'll come help us when they can,” Casey says. “Then we have vehicle maintenance that can help push a bus.”
While precipitation is a big factor, Casey says drivers also face another hurdle during winter conditions: the cold.
“When it gets down to below 20 a lot of times we will start – come early and start our buses at least an hour before they go out on a route.”