NewsLocal News


Transportation concerns at top of Montana administrators' minds when closing schools

School bus.PNG
Posted at 6:19 PM, Dec 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-22 12:29:13-05

BILLINGS — BILLINGS - Several schools across southeast Montana canceled class on Thursday, and administrators cited student safety and travel in the extreme cold as the biggest concerns.

As temps hit historic lows, Montana schools are closing not because of snow, but because of the cold.

"A lot goes into whether we close, and the biggest one is the ability to maintain the safety issues that are involved with it. It's going to 25-30 below degree temps with approaching 50 below windchill, and that’s too cold," said Billings Superintendent Greg Upham on Wednesday.

The biggest concern many districts have is getting kids safely to and from school. Not only is it too cold to wait for the bus, but it may also be too cold for the buses to run.

"When we start approaching 30 below zero, fuel gels in our buses, and we have to be very concerned with that, and it’s just too much risk when it gets up to that degree," Upham said.

That concern is shared by others.

Ervin Mettler owns Wicked Diesel in Billings. He says temperatures like this are almost unheard of and create all kinds of problems.

"It’s been 30-40 years since it’s been this cold this early. It’s hard on everything, doesn’t matter if it's gas or diesel. It’s going to freeze up gas too just like it will diesel fuel," said Mettler.

He recommends plugging in all vehicles, but especially ones with a diesel engine.

"If you don’t have a block heater, I recommend getting a block heater. If you don’t have access to that, then you can always put a diesel additive into the fuel to keep the fuel from gelling up in your fuel systems," added Mettler.

Some school districts have already started taking precautions by not running buses. That included Columbus.

"If we were to happen to run a bus off the road, we’ve got a bus sitting there with kids on it in extremely cold temperatures. So, the decision was made to not run our buses," said Alan Sipes, transportation director of Columbus schools.

School officials have high levels of concern due to very low temperatures, and even colder weather on the way.