School canceled after bus fuel freezes | SierraSun.com

School canceled after bus fuel freezes

Renee Shadforth, Sierra Sun

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky Monday, but the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District called a snow day because most of the district’s school buses would not start.

The diesel fuel in the effected buses turned solid during the weekend’s sub-zero temperatures, causing the fuel to clog the buses’ fuel filters, said district transportation department Director Tom Miller. The district transportation department did not have enough filters and resources to ratify the problem until Monday afternoon.

“We believe that several days of teens-temperatures outside on the cold blacktop caused the fuel to freeze,” Miller said, adding that the buses had not been started since the previous Wednesday.

Even with winterized fuel – which has been used in the fleet since mid-October – and a cold-weather additive, the buses were not operable.

On Tuesday the fleet was running at 100 percent, and a couple of routes were late due to circumstances unrelated to the fuel problems, Miller said.

Families were notified of the school closure via the district’s phone tree system, television stations and on the district’s Web site.

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“If we would have held school (Monday), attendance would have been way down,” said district Superintendent Dennis Williams. “If I’m a teacher, how do I teach a lesson if half of my kids aren’t there?”

Miller said running the buses also could have created a safety issue.

“We didn’t want to run the buses and have children stranded on the roadway,” Miller said.

This week was not the first time diesel has gelled inside of district bus gas tanks. In January 2002 the majority of the district’s buses did not start in the sub-zero temperatures. The buses that did start up stalled after they’d left the bus facility. Hundreds of students were left stranded at bus stops around town.

Williams asked the transportation department for a report on how the problem occurred and how it could be prevented in the future.

“I don’t want this to happen again,” he said.

Miller said the transportation department will be “downright diligent” in the future, adding that most of the buses had not been driven for the two weeks students were on winter break.

He said the department will consider buying fuel cell heaters.

“We also want to try and get a roof over the buses,” Miller said.

The majority of the district’s buses are stored outside, rather than indoors like most cold-climate school district bus fleets.

The transportation facility, which opened in September, is supposed include more bus garages, bays and shelter for the district’s fleet of 50 or so buses. However, funding for the project has been short, and the second phase of the project is waiting for school board approval.

Future snow day advisories

Typically, the weather outside will indicate the likelihood of a snow day in the district.

However, in the event that an expected school day cancellation leaves students stranded at the bus stops, Williams suggests parents have a contingency plan.

Also, if conditions turn unexpectedly treacherous during the school day, children will likely remain at school.

“I would keep the kids at school rather than sending them home to unknown conditions,” Williams said.

Families can find the latest information on snow days and cancellations on the district’s Web site – http://www.ttusd.org – on channel six in Truckee and through the district’s emergency communication network, also accessed from the district Web site.

Snow day information is usually released by 5:30 a.m. on the day of the closure.