AUGUSTA — Icy, hilly roads around Hussey Elementary School were deemed too slippery and dangerous for school buses to travel Tuesday morning, sparking some confusion among parents.

So, instead of taking Hussey students to their school, buses were sent to Cony High School to drop them off to wait there while the roads around Hussey were sanded and salted some more to be made safe.

The students stayed in the gym at Cony for about an hour until the roads were considered safe for buses to travel. Hussey students were then transported to their elementary school.

The few students who walked to Hussey or were dropped off by parents Tuesday morning, who may not have heard about the last-minute change, remained at Hussey, according to Superintendent James Anastasio.

Many city roads were left ice-covered by Monday’s snow and rain storm, which was followed by a plunge into freezing temperatures overnight, freezing anything that remained on the surface — a combination that required multiple treatments of sand and salt.

While Quimby and other streets around the hillside Hussey Elementary were treated with sand and salt Monday night, and roads were treated again around 3 a.m. Tuesday, the materials left on the road by the time school buses were due to traverse those roads was apparently not enough to make the roads safe for school buses to travel.

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“As we were starting to bring kids to school on buses, we received reports the roads around Hussey, in particular, were just too slippery. We decided it wasn’t a safe situation,” Anastasio said. “Coming up Quimby, from Bangor Street, was not possible, and coming down, from South Belfast Avenue, was not possible either.”

Lesley Jones, public works director for the city, said Augusta’s main roads and neighborhood roads were sanded and salted Monday night and a crew came in around 3 a.m. Tuesday to sand and sand salt some more, primarily main roads and roads with major hills, but that wasn’t enough to make the roads around Hussey passable for school buses later Tuesday morning. She said many roads in the city were so cold when the precipitation came it froze and the roads became covered in ice-pack.

“We were treating the roads, but buses are light and there is a bit of a hill (to get to Hussey) so the buses couldn’t get in,” Jones said Tuesday. “We had a crew come back in at 3 this morning and they went over the county roads and main drags and hills. But (Hussey) was a situation that just needed more material.”

City public works crew members and school workers sanded and salted the roads around Hussey and students were bussed back over from Cony around 9 a.m.

While at Cony they were fed and spent time in the gymnasium.

“Cony staff was fantastic, they really helped us out, we were all in the gym, all spread out, our kids were wonderful, I’m really proud of them, actually,” Hussey Principal Troy Alexander said.

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Alexander said he has a pickup truck with studded snow tires but even he, when he came into Hussey on Tuesday morning, noticed his truck fishtailed a bit as he drove.

“The hill out front, that’s pretty challenging,” he said of conditions before the roads were covered in additional sand and salt.

Anastasio and Alexander said an automated phone message was sent out to Hussey parents who had signed up for it, with the message telling them about the situation and advising them their kids would go to Cony to start the school day. Anastasio said it was sent out shortly after 7:20 a.m., or just over a half-hour before buses would usually start to arrive at school around 8 a.m.

Anastasio said First Student, the city’s contracted busing provider, also reported at least some of its buses, due to the icy conditions elsewhere in the city, couldn’t get to all the usual bus stops. He said parents were notified, and in a few cases, First Student sent a four-wheel-drive vehicle to pick up kids at stops to which it couldn’t get a bus.

Jones said the road conditions were tough, and unlike any she’d seen for a few years. Crews were still out treating roads Tuesday afternoon.

The city’s public works department currently has five employees out related to COVID or other medical issues, but Jones said it helped that other city workers, including from the IT, police and parks departments, helped public works deal with the storm.

Jones, in an email to City Manager Susan Robertson sent Monday night describing the challenges of the storm, said the snow started around 6 a.m. Monday and Augusta got about 4.5 inches then the precipitation turned into a mix, then rain, till about 3 p.m. She said they “had just enough drivers to cover all of the runs but had several breakdowns due to the heavy wet snow and two drivers who had to leave for family emergencies so this cost us some time in getting runs open. We did eventually get all the roads cleared and treated.”

 


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