School Bus Issues- What Is Being Done?

Good afternoon everyone and happy first day of school! This is my favorite day of the year and I hope your children came home excited about the year ahead!

Every year it is my fervent hope that the year will start out smoothly with the school buses at the elementary level and somehow that seems to elude me every year.  Thankfully we have managed to address the issues we have heard about in the past such as less than 45 minutes on the bus, first on last off on most buses, how we determine eligibility  and  creating ” neighborhood” routes rather than travelling across town but now we have a new problem that has never happened here in Georgetown during my 12 years here.

For some reason this year, our five buses are over subscribed.  We changed the registration process this year to an online format and then we mailed out bus passes in August to children who were registered to take the bus.  Last year our buses carried less than 60 students ( capacity 77 students by law) and in a couple of cases 30-40 students.  There was only one bus where we were concerned about the number of students.

This year for some reason, the bus counts ranged from 71-77 students at the beginning of August and since then all buses are at the capacity of 77 students and we have started a waiting list.  I am not sure if there are that many students who will actually ride the bus each day or if parents registered their child just in case they needed a bus occasionally. If that is the case, we ask those families to let us know so we can possibly allow others students who are entitled to ride a bus and intend to ride it regularly to get a seat.

The state law and School Committee policy requires that students in grades K-6 that qualify by distance ( 1.5 miles from home to school) be able to ride a bus.  However, since we can not exceed the maximum capacity of 77 students on a bus each day, there is currently not space for everyone who are just registering their children at this time. In some cases, parents are saying they never got the on-line registration or it went into their spam, others report that they registered and did not get a pass but somehow they were not on our bus registration master list and others are just registering now because they forgot and/or moved into town in the summer. Since we did not anticipate the high volume of late registrants, we have allowed the convenience bus to run again this year but we may need to reconsider this if we can not make room for the students that qualify.

I spoke with Cindy MacKenzie of North Reading Transportation today and she is trying to respond to all of the e-mails and phone calls that have been received by her , Mr. Belanger, my Assistant Nancy Weiss and Principal Margaret Maher.  As she sees that she has seats on the bus, she is contacting families and her goal is to find every child who is eligible a seat as soon as possible.

In the first two weeks, it will become  clear what the actual numbers of students riding the buses will be since some people with a bus pass may not use it and/or family circumstances may have changed for others and the pass is no longer needed. As I mentioned, Cindy is going to accommodate as many students as possible during this time but she is limited by the number of seats on each bus.  I know it is difficult but we ask for your patience in these first couple of weeks while we work this out. I promise that we are working diligently on a solution as we just found out about the magnitude of the issue within the last week and  we still had families registering or contacting us today about not getting a bus pass.

As a working parent, I know how much parents count on transportation for their children. We are sorry for the inconvenience that has caused some families and we hope it is a short-term problem. If you have any questions, please let me know at 978-352-5777 or jacobsc@georgetown.k12.ma.us

Thanks for your patience and have a great night!