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BOE: All Bus Routes Currently Have Drivers



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Board of Education Director of Business and Finance Tanja Vadas reported at a recent BOE meeting that all of the school’s 54 bus routes currently have a driver, and the school system has five spare drivers.

While some drivers are still attending safety classes, Vadas told the board members, “That’s where we stand as of the first day of school. We have every route filled.”

The announcement is an improvement over last year, when the school’s transportation companies, All-Star Transportation for in-district routes, and EdAdvance for out-of-district routes, both struggled to recruit an adequate number of drivers.

Vadas noted that the district may end up lending a spare or two to Brookfield, which is still struggling for drivers and has moved to a two-tier system similar to Newtown.

“It’s the nice thing to do, and they shared some with us early last year,” said Vadas. “They’re going to be in a similar place we were last year.”

BOE member Donald Ramsey questioned Vadas about ride times for students, especially for younger children. Vadas said the school system did a study and the goal was to keep ride times under one hour.

She said a three tier system, which would divide the routes into a high school route, a route with the middle school and Reed, and a route with the elementary schools, offered more flexibility in keeping ride times low. However, with the current two-tier system, with the high school and middle school running together, and Reed and the elementary schools running together, there’s “not a lot of wiggle room.”

Ramsey said that he noticed that buses stop at “almost every driveway” and questioned if there was a way to “consolidate the stops” to reduce the ride times.

Vadas said there is a way, adding the schools had presented it “several times,” but it was difficult to tell parents that a bus would stop at one driveway but would not stop at their driveway.

“It would help but it’s difficult to do that,” said Vadas.

BOE member Dan Cruson also noted that some roads are very narrow and it could be dangerous for younger students to walk to another driveway along potentially blind curves.

Vadas said there is no school policy requiring stops at any particular driveways. Cruson noted there are some state regulations around requiring students to cross a street.

BOE member John Vouros said he “wasn’t so sure All-Star was doing anything about routes in communities [with no safety hazards,] where they are stopping at every driveway.”

“They’re Ubers,” said Vouros. “It makes no sense.”

Vadas said parents have called in with concerns about not stopping at their driveways “and they’re valid.”

BOE Chairman Deborra Zukowski said she has seen buses stopping at every driveway on Main Street where there are sidewalks and no safety concerns.

She said there are general algorithms that could be used, such as grouping houses into groups of five and stopping at the one in the middle, or allowing parents to determine the driveways where children should wait. She said grouping them together was “great” because it would facilitate neighbors getting to know each other.

“We need some kind of oversight because there is financial incentive to have as many stops as you can possibly have — it means the bus cannot pick up quite as many kids so you need more buses,” said Zukowski.

Zukowski said it seems like a “good idea to look at that” as an effort to reduce ride times, at least for the younger children.

Vadas said that the immediate goal is making sure the routes are all staffed because they were “still recovering from the driver labor shortage over the last two years.”

“My suggestion is get up and running and then take a look at the stops and see how long the ride times actually are,” said Vadas. “It’s definitely worth looking at, but right now let’s just get up and running and then look at ride times.”

Vouros said people have been “complaining” about buses stopping at every drive, as it is “affecting traffic.”

Superintendent Chris Melillo recommended seeing how the routes shake out after the first week.

“Right now, we’re trying to get route schedules that make sense, we’re still waiting for those to come back,” said Melillo.

Melillo said once the school system runs its initial routes on the first day of school August 30, the district will continue to monitor how those function over a ten-day span. He said while parents want the buses to come to their driveways, they also wanted their children on “an efficient run,” and for students to get to school and arrive home in a reasonable amount of time.

Associate Editor Jim Taylor can be reached at jim@thebee.com.

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