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Added: Tue, 03/08/2016 - 11:02am
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For the fifth time in less than a month, buses in the Renfrew County were
cancelled March 2; there were also county-wide cancellations February 15, 24, 25 and 29. Unsurprisingly, buses for the Western Quebec School Board (WQSB) were out as usual, but were cancelled on the 25th; this marks the first board-wide cancellation in years. CSHBO buses were also cancelled on the 25th.
Following the record snowfall on February 15, Chairman of the WQSB Council of Commissioners, Jim Shea was interviewed February 17 by CBC Ottawa about the Board’s policies regarding bus cancellations; he was asked why they weren’t cancelled February 15 when the majority of buses on the Ontario side (Ottawa and Renfrew County) were.
According to Shea, buses in Quebec are equipped with snow tires and the WQSB prefers to cancel on a specific bus route basis; if a particular road is deemed
dangerous, only buses travelling it are cancelled. In the interview, conducted before the Feb. 25 cancellation, Shea couldn’t recall or find data about when the last WQSB system-wide cancellation occurred.
However, cancellations are not un-common in the Renfrew County; there were 8 system-wide cancellations in 2007-2008,10 in 2012-2013, 5 in 2013-2014, and 2 in 2014-2015. Losing over a week of class time due to bus cancellations is excessive - some years, Ontario boards have had to contemplate whether they would extend the school year to compensate for the number of snow days. However, not being able to recall when the last system-wide cancellation occurred isn’t something to be proud of, either. Understandably though, the WQSB does cover a very vast area, from Northern Quebec to Gatineau, which will impact the number of system-wide cancellations. Still, snow days in the Pontiac seldom occur.
How can two relatively close areas (Pontiac & Renfrew County) have such drastically different bus cancellation rates? Are the Ontario boards too cautious or is the WQSB too lax? The difference appears to be due to decisions based on current versus forecasted conditions.
While both the WQSB and Renfrew County boards take into account road
conditions, the latter also relies on weather reports; both make a decision very early in the morning, with the WQSB making theirs before 6:30 am. 
Is making a decision based on road conditions at 6:30 am the best method? In the case of the storm on the 15th, roads were fine at 6:30 am but became extremely
hazardous by mid-afternoon when students were due to return home. However,
weather reports and storm warnings are not always reliable predictors of road
conditions either and can lead to cancellations when they are not needed; for example, the reports on the 24th called for snow, but couldn’t reliably predict the amount (somewhere between 10 and 30 centimetres) or which areas would be affected.  
Is there a way to strike a balance between the two methods? Or are our instincts as parents the best indicator of whether the roads are safe to be travelled on?
Allyson Beauregard