LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Cathy Hasken is one of about a dozen people who help decide whether Jefferson County Public Schools' 101,000 students will go to school on bad weather days.
Most of time, the transportation coordinator gets the call in the middle of the night, informing her to be on the road by 3 a.m. to inspect her assigned area, which covers downtown and the Portland area. She has 17 schools she regularly checks.
“It gives you a different perspective when you sit on that bus and you have 50 lives behind you,” said Hasken, who has been employed with JCPS for 25 years as a bus driver and transportation coordinator. “I am a grandmother and a mother and there's nothing any more precious than my children or my grandchildren. I feel like that about anybody else's child, too.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Hasken took WDRB News on a ride-along as she inspected roads, bus stops and subdivisions along Manslick Road, Taylor Boulevard and Southern Parkway in southern Jefferson County.
“The main roads look pretty good, but it's the subdivision roads that we look at and where the children can walk,” she said as she turned down Joni Drive. “With no sidewalks, some have to walk in the street.”
“We also look at once the buses stop, can they go on? Can they get up that hill or maneuver that area? Buses can't maneuver likes cars do, they tend to slide a lot,” she said.
Hasken said when the main roads and interstates are mostly clear – as they were Wednesday – it can be misleading to parents and the community.
“Most people have no idea the factors that we face,” she said. “If we picked up all of our students on the main roads, it would be great. We wouldn't have a problem.”
Many of the bus routes Hasken took us on were covered in snow. Many sidewalks had not yet been shoveled. And lots of corners that are used as bus stops had snow drifts and piles of three feet or higher.
“Many of our youngest children are shorter than some of these snow piles,” Hasken said.
The bottom line, Hasken said is student safety.
“We hear all the complaints,” she said. “They say they don't understand why we can't get to some schools or why we are late…we always have to look out for the safety of our students.”
It's a message that was echoed by JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens when
that classes were canceled Thursday -- the fourth straight day.
“Weather conditions leave us no choice (but) to make sure our students are safe,” Hargens said.
JCPS transports approximately 70,000 students on 978 buses daily. Those buses travel over 100,000 miles a day, said Rick Caple, director of transportation for JCPS.
JCPS buses don't have snow tires, Caple said, because the state mandates the kind of tires that buses must have and snow tires are not included in those regulations.
"Children aren't like UPS...they don't come in boxes," Hasken said. "If a box gets broken, you can always replace it. Children aren't replaceable."
Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.
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