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3 school buses stranded with students

WASHINGTON -  Children on three Loudoun County school buses were stranded for more than three hours on Friday morning after the vehicles became stuck on rural roads.

School officials have not said how many children were on board, but spokesman Wade Byard says the students were elementary, middle and high school students.

Throughout the morning, all students were kept warm and safe, Byard says.

The buses were blocked due to several cars that were abandoned on rural roads due to icy driving conditions, Byard says. Those cars blocked the roadways on some bus routes.

David Bennett lives in Loudoun County and says one of the buses was stuck near the bottom of his driveway.

"The [bus] slid down the hill on our sunken gravel road, banging left and right into the bank and nearly hit a tree," he wrote in an email to WTOP. "The poor driver was white as a ghost by the time the bus stopped sliding."

The two-way radio on the bus stopped working so the driver had no way of contacting officials, Bennett says. He called the school district's transportation services and informed them of the incident, requesting a tow truck.

"Our sons have been receiving texts left and right from friends all over the Woodgrove-Harmony school district experiencing the same things," Bennett says.

Loudoun County Public Schools opened on a two-hour delay Friday and the earliest of the three stuck buses picked up children at 9:50 a.m.

Bennett says many parents have expressed dismay at the district's decision to open schools in the weather conditions.

"
[We had] active freezing rain hitting the road, and our temps here in the west were below freezing at 9 a.m. this morning," he writes. "We understand that folks in eastern Loudoun complain about school closures when they are receiving rain, but they fail to realize that we are 500 to 1,000 feet higher and about 2 to 5 degrees colder. "

Colleen Gustavson, whose two boys attend Lincoln Elementary in Purcellville, is another parent who says school should have been cancelled. 

She heard from other parents that children were crawling on their hands and knees to cross icy patches on the way to their bus stops. 

Her husband drove their boys to school in the morning. But she had to pick them up after school. 

"I was called by the school 10 minutes before school dismissal that the school bus would not be able to drop my children off," she says. "We all want our children in school but there are five built-in snow days so the fact that they wouldn't use one today was absurd."

During the morning hours, Byard, schools spokesman, told WTOP, "We have our staff out, we have VDOT on it we have local police on it. Mainly, it's just a case of getting other vehicles cleared."

In all, 23 buses were stalled getting kids to school Friday morning in Loudoun County.

The students on board these delayed buses will be charged with an unexcused absence according to state law, but Byard says, given the circumstances, the administration will be understanding.
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