On the day before Thanksgiving, Rockwood Transportation crews activated the school bus engine block warmers for the season. In the district's bus lot behind Pond Elementary School, each of 145 school bus stations is equipped with a connection that plugs into the vehicle's engine block.
When winter weather warrants, the block warmers keep Rockwood's school bus engines at 140 degrees Fahrenheit to make sure they will start on cold winter mornings.
Transportation director Mike Heyman said district officials added the engine block warmers after a very cold winter in 2014.
"It makes it so much easier," said Heyman. "That temperature keeps the fluids thin and the engine turns over much quicker. That makes it a lot easier to start the buses."
The engine block warmers afford Rockwood school buses protection to at least -40 degrees. But the real concern is student safety.
"Our concern is not only making sure the buses will start," said Heyman, "we want them to be warm when we start picking up students from cold bus stops. I want the buses to be warmed up for the kids."
Heyman said Rockwood school buses also have heated exterior mirrors.
"It's a safety precaution," he added. "The windows remain clear for maximum visibility."
Heyman said the department's "cold crews" go to work the night before a frigid morning.
"They start on the lot and get all their equipment together," said Heyman. "On evenings when we have some precipitation, they get busy with the deicer on the windows. They make sure the hoods are clear of ice and snow. If you get on top of these things and get everything thawed out when it's cold, everything just goes so much better. Our buses are toasty warm."