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Kids wait in -28 C cold for Okanagan school bus that never came

Route 42 was cancelled, but some had no notification

Bundled up against -28 degree Celsius weather, students in Cherryville waited for the bus Friday morning.

But the bus never came.

It was cancelled at short notice due to weather-related mechanical problems, according to Adrian Johnson, Vernon School District secretary-treasurer.

It was the only route, out of 30, that didn’t make it out in the frigid temperatures.

A testament considering, as Johnson points out, several school districts in B.C. cancelled all bus routes Friday due to the exceptionally cold weather.

But several parents in Cherryville aren’t impressed with how it was handled.

Charlie Redstone drove her son to the bus stop that morning and waited due to the temperatures.

They waited 10 minutes before another Cherryville resident drove past and said the bus wasn’t coming.

“All I could think was, what if the kids had walked and stood there waiting? This is frostbite temps,” said the concerned mother.

Some parents got a phone call shortly after 7 a.m. alerting them to the bus issue.

But Redstone and others never did.

“The transportation team promptly notified schools and posted the cancellation on the school district and school websites, Facebook and Twitter,” said Johnson. “In addition, with the limited time available, the transportation team were able to contact families of 32 of the 64 impacted students.

“We strive to ensure that no student waits for a bus that isn’t going to arrive, particularly in these frigid temperatures.”

Johnson says staff have debriefed to identify why they were unable to contact all the impacted families.

“We are revising internal procedures to find ways to directly and promptly contact all impacted families should this occur in the future.”

Redstone and some of the other families who weren’t notified are frustrated with the system.

“The bus stop is two kilometres away. We have to drive him in winter and when the bears wake up. Other kids have in the past been stalked by cougars and coyotes,” said Redstone, who, with her husband, normally drops her son off on her way to work. “It was so cold this morning that we stayed and waited with him.”

An Enderby parent says the North Okanagan-Shuswap school district has an app that her daughter can check on her phone. But even when it was far less cold earlier this week, she received a phone call to say the bus was running 15 minutes late.

“If they can call parents surrounding Enderby (and seriously, there are so many automated systems), they can call Cherryville parents, too,” said Sarah Dev.

A Lumby mom points out that social media posts aren’t the best way to reach busy parents struggling to get all the kids, and themselves, out the door on time.

“Not all parents do social media. So how are they supposed to know?” Karen Prebushewski said. “Our bus route posted it was going to be late after we had already left the house for the bus.”

Another Lumby parent was told an app similar to Enderby’s was being created for parents to track the busses.

She asked the district’s transportation services about it in October and was told it would be up “hopefully by the end of this month.”

“It’s now January and still nothing,” said Lyndsay Turnbull.

Johnson confirms there is something in the works and further information will be provided at a later date.

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