Thousands of families and their children in a Butler County city had to change their morning plans Tuesday after a train collision shut down a major roadway, delaying school openings.
Fairfield Schools — and its 10,000 students — were forced to delay the start of its school day by two hours due to school buses and other vehicles unable to navigate around roads blocked by the train crash just across the city’s border in Hamilton.
Two train crew members suffered minor injuries as one train rear-ended another early Tuesday morning de-railing the struck train, which had cars carrying flammable butane.
Officials with the Norfolk Southern Railroad said the crash, which occurred at 1:33 a.m., produced no leaks and no fires.
The crash and derailment, which forced Fairfield police and fire crews to close down the train crossing at North Gilmore Road between Tuley Road and Symmes Road, according to police.
Railroad crews were expected to work through Tuesday afternoon to return the derailed train cars to the tracks.
“The rear three cars … contained one load of pulpwood and two loads of butane,” said Norfolk Southern Spokeswoman Rachel McDonnell Bradshaw.
“No leaks and no fires have been reported. Norfolk Southern personnel and contractors that specialize in cleanup and recovery after a derailment are on-site working to safely re-rail the cars and restore train operations,” said Bradshaw.
Rail service was expected to be restored and the train cars moved from blocking the roadway by late Tuesday afternoon.
Bradshaw said the collision remains under investigation.
By 11:30 a.m. all Fairfield Schools had re-opened though morning pre-school and kindergarten classes were canceled.
Gina Gentry-Fletcher, spokeswoman for Fairfield Schools, said fire department officials told school officials they may want to consider a delay the start to only some of the school buildings because the derailment was close to those schools.
Initially, said Gentry-Fletcher, “a delay was recommended so first responders could properly assess the situation.”
“However, the district does not have the capacity to place certain schools on a delay while allowing other schools to be on a regular schedule,” she said. “These capacity issues are directly related to the (bus) transportation of students.”
Fairfield Schools draws students from both the city of Fairfield and Fairfield Twp.
“The schedule at all 11 of our schools will be back to normal on Wednesday,” she said.
“We appreciate the patience of our families as we adjusted the school day on Tuesday to accommodate the clean-up and investigation of this unexpected event,” said Gentry-Fletcher.
Ohio lawmakers in recent years eliminated the traditional five “calamity days” allowance for schools in order to give districts a more flexible system of pre-scheduled, extra instructional classroom hours during each school year calendar. The loss of Tuesday’s school time will be easily accommodated in Fairfield’s annual school schedule, said school officials.
“We have hours built into the school calendar for delays and closings, but typically these decisions are based on inclement weather situations,” Gentry-Fletcher said.
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