Bristol Township School District to Solve Busing Problem
Drastic cuts to the Bristol Township School District bus schedule brought out about 100 annoyed residents this week
The Bristol Township School District realizes it and its bus company have made mistakes and is responding to legitimate concerns from parents.
That response could mean the district will eventually provide its own transportation.
That’s the message from district spokeswoman Eileen Keliher after about 100 residents turned out at Monday’s school board meeting to criticize this school year’s transportation cutbacks which many say have jeopardized the safety of students.
Based on this the State Police has even notified Bristol Township that they will be monitoring School District buses for issues of over-crowding, the district reported Friday.
The complaints run the gamut: overcrowded buses, missing buses, not enough stops, no oversight for special-needs students, too little notice of the changes and a lack of district response to phoned-in complaints. Neither the district nor the bus company, First Student, is denying the issues.
“We’re very apologetic about this and we’re going to make it right,” said Keliher.
District officials say they are trying to respond to hundreds of calls and will hold a public meeting once it makes all the necessary changes.
Superintendent Samuel Lee added, “We are grateful for suggestions we have received from parents. We are determined to make this right."
The district hired a transportation director, Marianne Cleary, early this year. She took a look at a system that was burdening the district with the highest average per-pupil cost in the county, $1,300, and suggested extensive cuts, Kelleher said. Specifically, two thirds of all stops were eliminated and the number of buses was cut from 95 to 61, reducing the transportation budget from $9.5 million to $7 million.
“Many of our buses were a third full,” said Keliher.
But now parents have reported that some students have been forced to sit or stand in the aisles. Keliher and Don Swift, of First Student, acknowledge that is not something that can continue.
“That’s a safety issue and bus drivers know that they are not allowed to move with kids either standing up or sitting in the aisle,” she said.
The district is in the final year of a five-year contract with the Cincinnati-based First Student bus company. Swift declined to comment on the district’s costs. But he stressed that First Student takes all of its direction from the district and said he believes 95-97 percent of the issues have been addressed.
“We’re working with the district to correct the problems,” he said. “This was a major re-engineering of all the bus routes. They weren’t aware of potential overcrowding until we got out on the street.”
Board President Earl Bruck told residents Monday that the district is pursuing alternatives. Keliher told Patch that includes possibly providing its own transportation as it did in the past.
“That’s an obvious option, “ she said.
In the meantime, she said, stops are being adjusted including the Edgely run to St. Mark School.
“We have also changed routing on several of the Calvary Christian runs to reduce the time children spend on buses,” she said.
“This is a big transition and a needed transition but we’re still working out the bugs.”