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Bus breakdowns leave W. Jefferson Hills students out in the cold

| Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, 4:41 a.m.

Some West Jefferson Hills School District students waiting for buses Wednesday morning were left out in the cold when three buses wouldn't start.

The district was operating on a two-hour delay because of the cold temperatures. Superintendent Michael Panza said he learned about the problem around 7:45 a.m. when Matthews Bus Co. of Elizabeth called to inform him.

“I had called them on my way in at 5:45 a.m. and asked if everything was OK,” Panza said. “They said, ‘Yes, everything is fine.' But then two hours later, when it was too late for us to do anything, they said they were having problems with three of their buses.”

Panza said, as a result, some students stood outside waiting for up to 40 minutes. Some went home and didn't make it to school.

One bus broke down near Coal Valley Road en route to pick up students when the fuel began to gel because of the cold, the bus company's regional operations manager Kevin Barnhart said. Another bus picked up students, who arrived at Jefferson Elementary School at 10:54 a.m., about 30 minutes late, Barnhart said.

The company was acquired by Cincinnati-based Petermann Ltd. in 2011.

Panza said he complained to the company's regional director and vice president, among others. He said the bus company openly accepted responsibility for the situation.

“We're very frustrated with what happened today,” Panza said. “But we're doing all we can to make sure it never happens again.”

The bus company started the buses on Tuesday as a test, to try to ensure they would start the next morning.

The temperature dipped to 8 degrees or lower between 10 and 11 a.m., with a wind chill factor of minus-9, according to the National Weather Service in Moon.

“It was an unfortunate morning,” Barnhart said.

District administrators called a snow day on Tuesday.

About 20 buses transport students daily in the district, which has schools in Jefferson Hills, West Elizabeth and Pleasant Hills.

Trib Total Media staff writer Dona S. Dreeland contributed to this report. Tim Karan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1970, or tkaran@tribweb.com.

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