Muskogee Roads Too Icy For Kids To Go Back To School

Wednesday, March 5th 2014, 5:27 pm
By: News On 6

Many schools were back open Wednesday, but Muskogee wasn't one of them. Administrators there said the roads were still too icy. Now they are figuring out how to make up the time off.

Muskogee Public School buses carry 25,000 kids over a hundred miles, so when their buses can't travel, school is out. That causes some issues for students, staff and bus drivers alike.

"I love what I do," said bus driver Connie Toepel. "I'm the first person they see every day before they go to school, and for most of them, I'm the first bus driver they've ever had. And I take it very seriously that my job is to keep them safe."

She drives dozens of four year olds to and from Muskogee schools; that is, when there's not snow on the ground.

"I look forward to coming to work every day, but I also realize there's times we just can't come to work because it's not safe," Toepel said.

Slick side roads make the routes too risky, and Transportation Manager, Bobby Brewster, is charged with calling off school when roads are bad.

"One slip, one accident and everybody would've been saying, 'Well how come you didn't close schools,'" Brewster said. "I don't like us putting school off either."

School closures don't just put pressure on students and staff, the district's 10 snow days are causing part time bus drivers, like Toepel, to lose two weeks of drive time. The problem is, they still have to make up those hours or take docked pay.

"We just have to come in in between our day and wash our bus, do sweeping, just to get that time in," Toepel said.

So far, the district is making up two snow days. Parent Deborah Kemple wondered why school wasn't back open.

"It's warm, it's hardly no snow on the roads," Kemple said.

But Toepel, also frustrated, is sending a message, reminding parents what's important.

"It's my worst nightmare, hurting one of these children if there was to be an accident, whether it was my fault or not. I try to be 100 percent safe driver every day," Toepel said. "But situations like we had this morning with the ice, it would have been very, very, scary.

A district spokesperson said administrators will meet with teachers to decide when they'll make up those two days. The district just decided they will be open Thursday.