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Schools Reopening Friday with Busing Issue Resolved

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Schools Reopening Friday with Busing Issue Resolved
Posted on 01/08/2015

The Portland Public Schools are scheduled to open at regular start times on Friday, January 9, 2015, with a bus fueling issue that led to the closure of schools on Thursday resolved.

“We’re confident we’ll be able to safely transport all our students to school tomorrow at the regularly scheduled time,” Portland Public Schools Director of Transportation Kevin Whittemore said.

Schools were closed Thursday, January 8, because of a busing issue. “We had to cancel school because we were unable to fuel our compressed natural gas (CNG) buses,” Whittemore said. “But Metro has worked diligently with us to resolve the problem.”

Metro is the region’s public bus system and has the only CNG fueling station in the state. However, that fueling station was out of service due to a power surge.

The Portland Public Schools has 14 CNG buses, which is more than half its fleet of 26 buses. The district was concerned that some of its buses might run out of fuel and leave students stranded in the bitterly cold weather. Buses burn more fuel in the cold.

“With the temperature almost at 10 below zero early in the morning when we made the decision to close school, hypothermia would have been a concern if students had to wait on stopped buses for an extended period of time,” Whittemore said.

Metro was expected to bring extra fuel from Boston on Thursday afternoon to be able to fuel both its own fleet and the district’s buses. Should that not happen, the Portland Public Schools has put a contingency plan in place to use buses from other school districts and third-party contractors.

Portland Public Schools Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk praised the district’s bus drivers and other Transportation Department staff, some of whom arrived at 4 a.m. on Thursday morning to fuel the buses.

“We are the largest school district in the state and we have the best transportation department,” Caulk said. “Our staff safely transports about 3,500 students daily – about half our student population. We are taking steps with our partner Metro to ensure that in the future our buses will be able to get the fuel they need, and we’re confident we’ll be able to have buses on the road tomorrow to get our students to school.”