Slick conditions on the road to the Quechee School. Composite photo by Meghan Brewer.

Quechee School Bus Repeatedly Slides Off Road


Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Lee Michaelides

But don't blame the road crew!

"I would like to invite the Hartford superintendent to drive the road to the Ottauquechee School before he determines if the roads are safe to travel in the morning," wrote Meghan Brewer on Hartford's Facebook page last week. "This is the third time this school year that buses have ended up in the ditch, cars are off the road, and children are late for school because the road to OQS has not been properly plowed, sanded or salted."

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Other motorists echoed Brewer's observations.

"I remember coming down the driveway into OQS one day and could not stop as my 2000 pound minivan was sliding down the hill," wrote one woman. "All I could see was all the children in the crosswalk heading into the school with us heading straight towards them. It was terrifying." 

"There were two cars stuck on the hill trying to get up when I was there this morning," chimed in another. 

Others posted comments critical of Hartford's highway department, not knowing that the town crew is not responsible for treating Dody Lane, the road Brewer had originally posted about.

"I understand that Dody Lane was the road that has been problematic. Dody is a private road that is not maintained by the Town highway department. Winter road plowing is a challenge for all parties; whether by a private contractor or town staff," said Hartford's Public Works Director Rich Menge. 

The school district — not the town— owns and is responsible for maintaining the road to the Quechee school. So it seems like, to quote the famous line from Cool Hand Luke"What we've got here is a failure to communicate."

"I can’t speak to the number of times that buses have gone off the road around the Quechee schools. I am aware of only one instance. The School Superintendent may have a better idea," said Town Manager Leo Pullar.

"This is the first year I have had these issues in Quechee," said Thomas Debalsi, Hartford's superintendent of schools. "The school driveway has been an issue in the past but not the town roads. I have alerted the town personnel responsible for the roads and hopefully they will pay extra attention to the roads in this area. I have not had complaints from the rest of the district. Parents are always encouraged to do what they think is best for the children given the conditions where they live. I do the best I can at the early hours of the morning to make the decision to delay school, call off school or to have school. I can't always know what the exact conditions are on a given road and how the buses will respond."

At first Debalsi didn't seem to realize that Brewer was writing about just Dody Lane.

"I am not aware of any bus getting stuck on Dody Lane," Debalsi wrote to The Observer. He subsequently contacted Brewer and reassured her he was on top of the situation.
"Interestingly enough, Mr. Debalsi telephoned me just this afternoon," said Brewer on Wednesday evening. "He assured me that he has, and will continue, to take steps to ensure that the road to the school be clear and safe for travel. He said he and the town manager would be more communicative and wanted to stress that if I felt the roads were unsafe, I had every right to keep my child home that day."

Given the frequency and severity of ice storms the Upper Valley has experienced this season it is unreasonable and impossible for all roads to be clear 24/7, as some of the highway department critics suggested on Facebook. Though he may have come up from the South, Pullar offers a perspective that all Hartford residents, not just people living in Quechee, should heed.  

"We have highway crews dedicated to the entire Quechee area and they work as fast and as safe as they can. They work to clear the emergency routes and the routes to schools first and then get at the rest of the roads on the routes. The application of sand and salt is an iterative process, the first application often only scratches the surface. Regardless of how many times a road has been plowed, sanded or salted, I encourage folks to exercise extreme caution on the roads as the conditions change often and rapidly," said Pullar. "Remember, when the roads are slick, they are slick for everybody, including the plow and sand trucks."

"On the day that started the recent flurry of comments on Facebook, the crews were called in at 3:30 AM. They had to travel from their homes to the garage in the same slippery conditions that we called them in for. I’d rather they take their time and be safe on the way in so that they can do the work they need to do for the town," he added.

 


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