2017-02-16 / Front Page

School officials defend Tuesday's two-hour delay

Parents apparently "outraged" by bus stop conditions
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD — School officials are standing by their decision to enact a two-hour delay for all Biddeford schools on Tuesday, after reports that parents were upset by the conditions of bus stops left by heavy snowfall.

The Bangor Daily News reported Wednesday that several parents were allegedly “outraged” after their children were forced to stand on city streets while waiting for their buses because their designated bus stops had not being cleared of snow.

Sunday and Monday’s storm pummeled Biddeford with a crippling 23 inches of snow, according to meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Gray. That storm prompted school officials to close all Biddeford schools on Monday and to implement a two-hour delay for classes on Tuesday.

Biddeford Schools Superintendent Jeremy Ray said Wednesday he believes the school department gave parents and students adequate notice that not all bus stops would be cleared of snow in time for school to begin Tuesday.

He also said the district had not received the same number of complaints from parents as was reported.

“We received one phone call yesterday all day in the district (about bus stops), and I feel that we gave some appropriate notification the night before,” Ray said. “The city crews had dealt with 23 inches of snow, I think that there are a lot of things that people don’t realize in those situations.”

Ray sent an email letter to parents Monday evening asking parents to, “Please stand with your children at the bus stop (Tuesday) and assist with keeping students safe.”

“Our public works and maintenance crews have done an outstanding job keeping up with the snow in the past 24 hours. However, with the amount of snow that has fallen, we still need more time for snow removal,” Ray’s letter read. “This will mean that not all sidewalks and bus stops will be totally cleaned out tomorrow morning.”

Ray said any student seen walking to school would be picked up by bus drivers, and that parents were given the option of keeping their children home from school — giving students an excused absence — if they felt conditions were not safe.

“We gave people a lot of notice the night before, gave people several options of keeping children home, and we had staff available if parents wanted to drop kids off early,” he said.

“Certainly we think of student safety,” Ray said. “We even get calls from parents when we cancel school because they have to work. We felt the information was very clear from public works to us that sidewalks would not be done.”

Carl Marcotte, assistant director of Biddeford Public Works, said last week that during storm events the department is forced to focus its attention on main roads for emergency reasons, and that side streets aren’t plowed as often as a result.

Talking about the Feb. 9 storm, which resulted in much less snow accumulation than the nor'easter earlier this week, Marcotte said, "With this amount of snow most of our efforts are on the main drags and a lot of the sides streets don’t get done as fast as we would like them to, but we need to focus our efforts on the main roads for emergency personnel.”

Citing other school districts that didn’t delay classes at all, Ray said he stands by the decision to keep school open on Tuesday given the information he received from public works.

“Those guys worked 24 hours straight, if not more, and we can’t ask any more of those guys. We have to think about the whole picture,” he said. “We made the decision and overall we were pretty successful here.”

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or abennett@journaltribune.com.

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