Just like getting the family car ready on a cold, snowy morning, preparing school buses to transport children to and from school in bad weather takes extra time and effort.

Just like getting the family car ready on a cold, snowy morning, preparing school buses to transport children to and from school in bad weather takes extra time and effort.

Marysville Exempted Village School District runs 34 buses daily, two trips each in the morning and afternoon, transporting about 2,300 students, with the first bus departing the bus compound at 5:40 a.m. It takes a coordinated effort from bus drivers, mechanics and district administration to get and keep buses running.

Mechanic Andy James said that when the temperature hits 35 degrees, block heaters on the bus engines and plugged in, keeping the engine, coolant and oil warm, which aids in starting. The block heaters, which heat to 110 degrees, also help keep windshields clear, he said.

The district recently received five new engine heaters, which are being installed on approved buses.

James said he also arrives early on cold mornings to start the buses and make sure there are no mechanical issues. He starts one spare bus, just in case, he said.

"If we do have a problem with a bus, we try then to let the parents know so they can get their kids back inside," director of transportation Amy Morgan said.

Drivers also arrive early to make sure mirrors are clear and to warm up the inside of the buses.

"I know I wouldn't want to sit on those vinyl seats if they were really cold," driver Danyal Brogan said.

Drivers also must allow air dryers in the buses' air brakes to heat up, drying out any moisture in the braking system.

Morgan said she hits the roads between 4 and 4:30 a.m. on snowy or icy days, to get a sense of the road conditions and to help make recommendations on whether school should be delayed or cancelled. Often a delay, in addition to giving road crews time to clear roadways, makes a trip safer just by putting all driving in daylight, Morgan explained.

On the roads, drivers pay attention to things like areas where trees hang over the roads, which can mean slicker roads underneath. Things which drivers always watch for, like the tail swing of the bus, how cars are parked along streets and railroad crossings, receive additional attention in bad weather, Brogan said.

"Drivers keep route sheets, and we mark any hazards we might encounter," Morgan said.

Brogan and Morgan both said that other drivers can cause problems for buses in bad weather, and encouraged motorists to please exercise additional caution.

James said mechanics try and keep buses clean after driving in the snow and ice, because materials used to clear roadways can cause deterioration of the body and some parts of the buses. In general, though, he said, starting and driving buses in the cold is no more taxing on the engine than typical driving.