KNOXVILLE (WATE) – It’s the first week back from winter break for Knox County students. With temperatures dropping into the single digits by Thursday morning and Knoxville having the highest flu numbers in the country, a lot of parents are worried about sending their kids to school.
Almost a year ago Tuesday, temperatures fell and some students were left standing in the frigid weather after 80 school buses failed to start. WATE 6 On Your Side found out that’s 25 percent of the school’s fleet.
This year, Knox County bus contractors are taking precautions to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
WATE 6 On Your Side asked contractor Bill Gentry what he’s doing to make sure the buses are ready for the bad weather this week. He said he started getting his buses ready last week.
“We started them last Friday and then we waited over the weekend and then restarted them Monday and they ran yesterday for about three to four hours and just went through pre-checking everything: the oil, the fuel, the water, the antifreeze and kind of got them pre-ready for today,” said Bill Gentry, the owner of Gentry Trailways.
Gentry said the cold also alters the diesel, causing it to “gel up” and that can make it almost impossible for buses to start.
“It actually turns into, like, jello and it’s very hard to flow through the lines and get the vehicle started,” he said.
He said they keep a diesel additive in the fuel tanks to treat the fuel, but with dropping temperatures they’re taking the precaution a little further.
“To go the extra mile, we’re trying to put this into each school bus so it has a little booster shot you might say,” Gentry said.
The president of the Knox County Bus Contractors Association, Doug Davis, said they may turn the buses on at midnight tomorrow and keep them running through the night, just to make sure there aren’t any problems Thursday morning when the low is 8 degrees. Davis said that decision will be made Wednesday.
Schools were closed right after winter break last year because temperatures were low for several days. Knox County Schools Superintendent Dr McIntyre said this year is a different story.
“While we will have some significantly cold temperatures this week, they’re not quite as they were a year ago, they’re not as sustained as they were and we had the opportunity to start our buses and have them run today and heat our buildings up,” he said.
Even though temperatures are supposed to hit 8 degrees Thursday morning, Dr. McIntyre isn’t anticipating any school closings or any late starts this week. He said if that changes, parents will be notified, and WATE 6 On Your Side will keep you updated.