Schools prepare for the cold weather

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BRANFORD--It’s not just snow and ice that disrupts school schedules. Frigid weather makes school systems consider delaying or closing due to several factors.

The schools mechanical systems are a primary concern, but it’s more about the children.  For some, they rely on their school for heat and perhaps the only two meals they will have in the day. Of course, students waiting for buses in the cold can be dangerous, as well.

As part of a school systems cold weather protocol, bus companies are asked to do everything in their power to arrive at each stop on time to minimize a child’s exposure to the elements.

Melinda Torelli, manager of the First Student school bus service in Branford, says she takes great pride in keeping kids safe. That starts with making certain her fleet of 59 buses starts. Her diesel-fueled buses are aided  by Polar Power. “It’s a fuel additive that prevents the diesel fuel from gelling,” said Torrelli, whose father and grandfather owned the first school bus company in Branford. Her great grandfather even owned a horse and buggy business that transported people around town.

Torelli says she makes it a practice, during cold spells, to keep her fleet’s fuel tanks full. If the tanks are less than half full, she says there is a danger that the fuel will crystallize.

State law does not allow idling of diesel engines for longer than three minutes, unless temperatures dip below 20 degrees. First Student drivers typically report to work 10 to 20 minutes early on cold mornings to make sure the cabins are toasty for the drivers and children.

East Haven’s superintendent of schools, Dr. Portia Bonner, says that during extreme cold students who typically walk to school are allowed to take a bus to school if they can’t find a ride.

For a list of school delays and closings, click here.