District officials need to prioritize student safety in inclement weather

To the editor:

As we all know, this has been a brutal, snowy winter during which transportation has been hindered and events canceled due to extreme weather. It is with this in mind that I call to judgment the decision to keep school open on two February days in spite of particularly hazardous road conditions. I do not think anyone wants additional snow days that will have to be made up in June, but it is a mistake to put our kids on the road in unsafe conditions.

The following is information and feedback that I expressed to Alan Fegley, Superintendent of Phoenixville Area School District, in the wake of these events:

On Feb. 14 there was an incident in East Pikeland where Bus 40 became stuck in the snow and students had to be transferred to another bus. I have a text history from my son who was on Bus 40 that morning:

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February 4, 2014:

8:57 - son - “We’re stuck”

8:58 - me - “Where? Am I allowed to pick you up?”

9:01 - son - “Don’t know how to describe where we are, but no”

9:07 - me - “Still stuck?”

9:07 - son - “Snow plow just came by, it may able to help”

9:10 - son - “Plow left :/ “

9:43 -son - “New bus will be here in 5-10 mins”

9:45 - son - “Bus is here”

The children sat in the bus, stuck in the snow, for over 45 minutes. The temperature was 9 degrees that morning.

Ten days later, on Feb. 14, Bus 40 was over 40 minutes late getting to the school. Is it acceptable that children stand outside at bus stops in sub-freezing temperatures for that length of time?

I was on the road the mornings of both Feb. 4 and Feb. 14. The road conditions on Feb. 14 were equal to or worse than Feb 4. By my observation, I believe it was risky to transport children by bus on Feb 14, especially given the experience just 10 days prior. So the question is: How can I have confidence that under similar conditions, a more prudent decision will be made in the future?

Mr. Fegley has since responded to my feedback, and has decided not to make any changes to the way snow closings are handled in the district. Instead, he told me it is up to parents to decide whether to send their children to school when the district does not close for weather.

In my opinion, Mr. Fegley has taken nothing from my feedback and inquiry. As a parent, I know and accept that my child’s well-being ultimately rests with me. But often times we must entrust that safety to another. In this case, Mr. Fegley has effectively deferred the decision making to parents when it comes to school during hazardous weather events, the decision that was entrusted to him.

Patrick Roncace

East Pikeland