The man behind snow days: West Salem School District’s Richard Kline keeps students and bus drivers safe

WEST SALEM (WKBT) — There are two words nearly every kid wants to hear – “school’s canceled.”  But who makes that decision? West Salem school district’s director of transportation has been making the call for more than 30 years.

Before many of us have had a chance to sip our morning coffee, Richard Kline is already on the road.

“What I do typically is I start my day pretty early. I left my house around 4 o’clock,” Kline said.

The district’s director of transportation checks most bus routes each morning.

“I travel some of the roads that I know are the most difficult, I check the coulees, and some of our turnaround areas to see if they’ve been treated,” Kline said.

If the roads aren’t clear or the snow plows are just beginning their routes, Kline says he reports back to the superintendent.

“We have a discussion about whether or not we’re going to delay or close,” Kline said.

West Salem Superintendent Ryan Rieber says Kline knows what’s best for both bus drivers and students.

“Rick knows his drivers very well, he knows how our buses can handle those conditions. If there’s any question in that like there was yesterday and today, we don’t want our buses or our students on the road,” Rieber said.

Each bus driver is responsible for the safety of roughly 60 to 70 students which is why Kline says it’s necessary to start the school day with a clear road.

“They’re not transporting dry goods or cargo or something like that. If they get stuck in the ditch, we have a load of kids on board, and you know with the temperature with the way that it is, it’s really important that we get those kids to school safely. It’s really stressful for a bus driver.

Snow isn’t the only factor Kline has to consider.

“Believe it or not, buses don’t like to run in that cold weather. Wind chill is a big factor, so you know if can be potentially above zero, but the if the wind picks up, it brings it down considerably, the wind chill does,” Kline said.

If there’s a chance that bus drivers may not be able to see the road, slip, or steer, Kline always chooses safety.