ELKINS - Randolph County school officials anticipate that students will be back in school today, and they have been working hard to make sure the buses transporting this precious cargo are in tip-top shape and the schools are warm and toasty.
Randy Long, coordinator of student transportation for Randolph County Schools, said the county has 49 buses on the road daily.
Long said all the buses are equipped with automatic chains on the tires and that each bus has been put through its paces to make sure everything is working properly.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Randy Long, coordinator of student transportation for Randolph County Schools, checks the oil and engine Wednesday on bus 55, which transports students living in the Beverly, Georgetown Road and Files Creek Road areas. Long said all the buses have been put through their paces and are ready for runs today as students head back to class.
"What occurred last night and this morning as we were working on the buses was the fuel thickened," Long said. "We use biodiesel fuel and in the colder weather, the fuel thickens. When that occurs, it creates a jelly-like substance that cannot pass through the filters."
Long said this happened to five buses in his fleet Tuesday evening. He said that typically occurs when the temperatures drop into the teens and below - and if the buses sit for a few days, it makes the problem worse.
"We took extra precautions this year and treated the fuel with extra additives," Long said. "We buy our fuel, and they add the treatment to it, and I added extra fuel additives, and it still happened."
Long said all of the buses have been serviced and they are all running.
"We are pretty well ready to roll," Long said.
He said he checked with the state Department of Highways Tuesday evening, and they were treating the secondary roads at 9 p.m.
Long said he was concerned with the possibility of fuel lines gelling, which is one of the reasons school was canceled in Randolph County Wednesday.
"A lot of times you can put a bus out on the road, and it will run for an hour," Long said. "But when you put that wind chill under the hood at 50 miles per hour at zero degrees, it's 60 below zero going under that engine. There is a chance of the fuel gelling up. It wasn't worth the risk."
Students have only been in school in Randolph County one day since the Christmas break, and Long reminds drivers to watch out for students and buses on the roads.
"Reduce speed - especially on icy roads," Long said. "Traction is reduced and stopping times are reduced when there is ice and snow-covered roads. Be watching - buses are going to be out on these roads and everyone needs to watch for the students and the buses."
Long also has advice for students and parents.
"Dress warmly, wearing layers of clothes when going out to meet the bus," Long said. "The bus could be late due to nasty road conditions. We try to run as close as we can to schedules, but sometimes delays are inevitable."
Superintendent of Schools Terry George said everything is set for students to return to today.
"Maintenance staff went to every building Wednesday," George said. "They walked each school making sure the heating systems are working properly. Lots of folks have experienced frozen pipes, and our staff has been in the buildings every day to make sure there are no problems."