Sluggish school buses keep Olathe students home for another day

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OLATHE, Kan. -- It was another day off for students in the Olathe School District, but not because they had an extended break or because the roads are bad. Fifty of the buses that take kids to school every day did not start.

The school district says it's working on the problem, but parents are anxious to get their kids back in class while their children relished the extra day.

"Me and my brother were just so happy!" said Juan Joey Cepeda, a 10-year-old who goes to school in Olathe.

Parents were decidedly less chipper.

"I was sad because my kids are crazy, they want to go back to school, they're bored!" said Miriam Mompin, a mother who has three children in the Olathe School District.

The school district made the decision on Tuesday morning to cancel school because of the weather driven emergency. A school district official said the number of inoperable buses posed a real transportation problem.

"We transport about 9,000 students to school every day, so not having 50 of our buses was significant," said Erin Dugan, the assistant superintendent for Olathe School District.

She said they notified families as soon as possible that the extreme temperatures prevented a large number of its school buses from starting.

"These temperatures have been so unusual, and it's been decades since it's been this cold," Dugan added, "This will be the first time, that due to cold weather, we are unable to start a significant portion of our fleet."

First Student is the bus provider in Olathe. They declined to comment on camera, but did give FOX 4 this statement:

"The safety of all the students we transport is a core value of First Student and a responsibility that we take very seriously. Our position is always, "If you cannot do it safely, do not do it." During the holiday break, First Student continued operations as usual in Olathe. We started buses up; checked the systems; and continued to perform preventative maintenance. We prepared for this morning’s cold, with the record-low temperatures; however, there were issues. Our start-up crew was on location at 2:00AM today. 50 of our 240 buses did not start. We have called in additional crews to work on the issues with the goal of resuming operations tomorrow. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this caused students, parents and the school district."

"I think they need new buses!" Miriam said, who sends her daughter to preschool each day on the bus.

She's concerned that the buses didn't start due to the cold weather.

"Why are we putting our kids in these buses if they can't start because of the cold," she said, "We should change companies!"

Dugan said it was an unusual circumstance and it is unlikely it will happen again.

"I've already talked to First Student, and our buses are going to be able to be up and running, so we're confident and there should be no problems with getting kids to school tomorrow," said Dugan.

The Olathe School District is working with the bus company to come up with a plan 'B' to ensure this scenario doesn't happen again. The schools have snow days built into the calendar so kids won't have to make up classes.

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