It is Bus Registration Time Again

It that time again when the district begins the registration process for eligible families to sign their children up to ride the bus during the next school year.  Our Transportation Coordinator, Barry Belanger has asked me to let you know that he will be sending on-line e-mail applications to eligible students this week. Our google platform will not allow him to send out one large e-mail blast so he is sending smaller batches of e-mails, in no particular order, over the course of five days. If you hear that someone received an e-mail but you did not and you know your child is eligible to ride the bus, do not panic. If you are eligible by School Committee policy either by mileage or your residence is in a designated safety zone, you should hear from Mr. Belanger by close of business this Friday May 24th.

Last year, we had less problems with the buses compared with previous years and we introduced an on-line registration process which we are continuing  to use this year.  Having the ability for parents to respond immediately on-line has greatly improved the response time and provided the district and the bus company with needed information to begin developing the routes. I want to encourage parents to complete the form when they receive it rather than putting it off since we do make note of the date that the registration form is received by Mr. Belanger.

We do have one issue that I would like to bring to your attention and ask for your help.  We understand that being allowed to ride the bus is a privilege that many families count on and the eligibility criteria for qualifying is more lenient that required by the state. We wish we could accommodate all families who would like their child to ride regardless of where they live, but unfortunately given five buses and limited seats ,we have to set limits. Last fall, we encountered a problem that made the first three weeks of school very challenging.  We always have more student eligible that ride than actually take the bus but the law requires us to make sure there is a seat for every eligible student in case they want to ride. This is why we began a registration process in the first place so we could know exactly how many families intend to use the service regularly. What happened in the fall was that many students registered and the seats were assigned on a first come first served basis assuming we had enough seats.  We received a lot of late registrations and we discovered shortly before school opened  that the buses were virtually full according to the counts on paper.  In fact, there were 20-30 eligible riders who could not be placed on buses because there were no seats available.  Parents were very patient to be on a waiting list until we saw how many of the students actually rode on the bus.  You probably know where this is going but what we found out was that a large number of families completed the form but their child was not riding the bus even though they were on our lists.  I personally went and counted riders for the first week and saw that on most days there were 15-20 open seats on each bus.  Since we thought maybe families were driving students for the first week, we waited two additional weeks and determined that we could accommodate all of the students on the waiting list.  Over the course of the fall, the school began taking attendance and tracking students who were riding the bus.  We will use those lists and those students will be assigned seats first this year as opposed to on a first come first served basis.

In order to avoid this from happening again next year, we need your help.  If you are not planning to have your child ride the bus regularly, please do not register for the bus pass and take a seat from someone who needs it every day. If you need to ride occasionally and are eligible, please let the bus company know  and ,assuming there are seats open , I am sure they will work with you.  You might still need to register but we would appreciate you letting us know you only plan to have your child ride occasionally.

I am so excited that last year we were able to (1) accommodate families who lived inside of the mileage limit and needed transportation on the “convenience bus run”, (2) ran routes that were 45 minutes of less and made more sense and (3) avoided adding bus fees.  If we can just make improvements to the registration process with early registrations, regular riders getting assigned seats and people riding occasionally flagging that for us, we can start the next school year off smoothly. Thank you in advance for your help!