Many St. Albert and Sturgeon County students got extra days off this week as schools cancelled bus services due to the cold.
All Sturgeon Public and Greater St. Albert Catholic school bus routes were cancelled Jan. 15 and 16 due to cold weather. GSACRD cancelled its Legal, Morinville, and rural St. Albert routes on Jan. 17, but kept urban St. Albert routes running. An extreme cold weather warning from Environment Canada was in effect for the St. Albert region on these days, with lows of up to -50 C with wind chill predicted.
GSACRD policy is to cancel buses if Environment Canada predicts temperatures of -40 C or colder including wind chill, said transportation supervisor Lauri-Ann Turnbull. They make such a decision and send out notices online and by text message as of 9 p.m. the previous night. Buses were also cancelled Jan. 14 due to the cold.
Sturgeon Public has a similar policy of suspending bus routes when it’s -40 C, but bases its decisions on the temperature in Bon Accord as reported by the Weather Network. Both GSACRD and Sturgeon Public keep schools open when bus routes are suspended.
About 2,500 GSACRD students were potentially affected by the cancellation, Turnbull said. Some would stay home, while others would drive or get rides from parents. Anyone who had a provincial diploma exam either had to find a way to get to school and write it or call their school and arrange for a different test date.
St. Albert Public did not cancel its buses this week, said transportation manager Kris Salerno.
“Our policy is that buses always be running,” Salerno said, unless there’s catastrophic weather or the roads are somehow impassable.
Rural boards often cancel buses due to the risk of having students stranded on a bus in cold weather, Salerno said. In urban areas such as St. Albert, stranded students can be rescued in minutes, so the bigger concern is that students end up freezing at a bus stop because they didn’t hear buses were cancelled. St. Albert Public buses might be delayed or less full when it’s cold, but they’ll almost always be on the road.
On Jan. 17, Environment Canada predicted temperatures would stay well below -20 C around Edmonton until Jan. 19 before rising to a comparatively balmy 2 C by Wednesday.