Schools battle bus schedule blues

Published 10:59pm Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Officials with Suffolk Public Schools said they were expecting Wednesday’s dismissal to “run closer to schedule” than Tuesday’s did after the division responded to bus timetable issues with automated phone calls and updated routes and bus stops.

New staggered schedules, with four starting bells instead of the previous two, increased back-to-school confusion Tuesday, and the journey home for some students reportedly took at least two hours.

Mechanical problems with buses, parents parking in the wrong places and blocking bus loops, late enrollments and school zone changes, and a Transportation Department phone outage compounded issues, according to the district.

About 125 families voiced concerns to the district Tuesday, according to school spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw. Transportation planners worked until 7 p.m. “correcting routes and bus stops.”

“Those changes should start no later than Thursday morning,” Bradshaw stated. “The department will continue to work out concerns and update routes as needed.”

Buses leaving middle and high schools late delayed many afternoon bus schedules Tuesday, according to Bradshaw.

A “trickle effect” impaired elementary bus schedules, and secondary administrators worked to ensure students were on the correct bus, “which took more time than anticipated.”

“We expect (Wednesday’s) dismissal to run closer to schedule,” Bradshaw added.

A “late bus” option has been added to the district’s automatic message system. According to Bradshaw, “Parents will need to sign into the School Messenger system to change what phone they want to be called, and if they want to receive a text message.

“These automated phone calls were started this morning (Wednesday) to inform parents when their child’s bus is running behind schedule. Administrators hope that this communication effort will reduce parents’ worry when the bus has not yet picked up their child in the morning or when their child is not home on time.”

The district is appealing to parents to use the bus concerns form online at www.spsk12.net, or the “contact us” button, rather than burden phone lines.

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