Three weeks after Superstorm Sandy hit, local roads were finally cleared of loose wires, allowing all Katonah Lewisboro buses to resume regular bus routes on Mon. Nov. 19.
The storm, its aftermath and the Nor'easter that blanketed the area two days after schools re-opened made for a challenging few weeks, Superintendent of Schools Paul Kreutzer said as he addressed the school community at a recent school board meeting.
"We saw the best in people but we saw a lot of anxiety; we are aware of some post-storm stress in our community," he said. "We will deal with the effects long-term."
The storms also highlighted the district's urgent need for improving communications systems—which were compounded by the phones going out in the middle of the snowstorm on Nov. 7, when snowy roads and several accidents prevented several school children from getting home until the evening hours. Two children didn't get home until 10 p.m.
"In retrospect, having an early release would have kept our students and staff off the roads," Kreutzer said. "We were working off a professional weather service... we believed there would be no accumulation on paved roads [that early]. I feel very badly about that scenario."
With the phones out for about an hour and a half, communication was relayed to the director of transportation, who was able to radio bus drivers. Cell phones were also used to communicate with families, according to Michael Jumper, assistant superintendent for business.
Communications will improve this spring, said Kreutzer, when the new bus radio communications system—enabling GPS tracking and direct communication with drivers—approved in last year's budget is ready. The implementation has been stalled by delays in cell tower completion and the delivery of FCC codes, he added.
But even when the buses are fully hooked up, the district—located in a "beautiful, rural community"—needs a "modern response to storms," Kreutzer said.
"Don't be surprised if we include the future generation of power in the budget this season," he said. "We just can't go fully down. We need the ability to communicate."
Board member Janet Harckham recommended looking into available grants for solar-powered backup generators.
To read Kreutzer's letter to the community regarding recent storms, click here.