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Braving the Elements: Valley View Crews Work to Prepare for Return of Students from Winter Break

"We are fortunate to have an intensely dedicated group of employees who work together no matter what the weather (is)," says Valley View School District Director of Transportation Lucy Harding.

Credit: Larry Randa/Valley View School District
Credit: Larry Randa/Valley View School District
The following article was submitted by Valley View School District 365U:

Even as Valley View School District 365U administrators were busy determining whether to close schools (Monday, Jan. 6) because of the dangerous wind chills the area is experiencing, it was business as usual for several groups of dedicated VVSD individuals who must make sure buses are ready to go and facilities are safe and warm every day for 18,000 students and 2,500 staff members.

“Maintaining the parking lots, sidewalks and indoor building climate takes an incredible amount of diligence and hard work,” said Michael Lopez, VVSD’s Director of Facility Operations.

“We are very fortunate to have an intensely dedicated group of employees from both Facility Operations and Transportation who work together no matter what the weather to assure the safety and comfort of our students and staff,” added Lucy Harding, VVSD’s Director of Transportation.

Dealing with this week’s weather issues were a particular challenge because they occurred at the end of the two-week-long winter break.

Throughout all of last week, a team comprised of bus drivers and vehicle maintenance staff started and ran every bus for up to an hour in an effort to determine and fix any potential issues that would have prevented their use when classes resumed. On Friday, following the New Year’s Day snow storm, 37 drivers reported at 6 a.m. to clean the snow off buses and move them around the lot so Facility Operations personnel could clear the snow from the parking lot and salt the walking surfaces.

“Whenever it snows, our Facility Operations crews work diligently through the night to keep the Transportation Center and parking areas cleared of snow and salted so that our staff can get to our facility and walk to their buses safely,” Harding said.

Monday morning, despite the dangerously cold temperatures, the Transportation teams were at work early in the morning starting every bus and making sure all is well. Once classes resume, bus drivers will all be asked to report to work an hour early (the first bus leaves the Transportation Center at 5 a.m.) and go through their regular daily routine of using ordinary brooms to clear snow and ice each bus’ 8-way lighting system, the hood, the emergency door, windows and mirrors.

Meanwhile, throughout winter break, roughly 30 building and 25 district maintenance personnel have been on duty clearing snow and keeping sidewalks safe using snow blowers, 17 pickup trucks and two dump trucks with plows on the front, a tractor and a skid steer.

Because several local churches use school facilities each Sunday, Facility Operations crews were out very earlySunday morning, and kept working throughout the day to battle the snow and drifting. The Sunday afternoon decision to cancel Monday classes gave them a brief respite over night before they once again headed out early Monday morning to clear lots and sidewalks. 

A different Facility Operations crew works around the clock to make sure the proper temperatures are maintained inside all 22 school buildings. HVAC technicians use computers to monitor and adjust temperatures from a central site. In addition, when outdoor temperatures drop below zero building maintenance staff members make visual checks of their facilities.

“We want to make sure we avoid costly pipe freeze-ups and equipment failure,” Lopez said. “Plus maintaining consistent indoor temperatures throughout a building when outdoor temperatures are minus 10 degrees or more can be difficult.”

Lopez praised his team for its dedication.

“During these winter months in particular, they realize that their tireless efforts result in supporting a safe and warm environment for students and staff,” he said.

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