A changeover in personnel at the company that provides bus services to the Sandwich School District resulted in a number of headaches for school administration and families during the first week of school.
Several versions of school bus routes were given to the district from the bus company First Student over the past two weeks.
The first set of routes was sent to the district last Monday, August 26 and contained an error with a route at the Forestdale School. The following a day, a revised set of routes was provided.
This second version presented a series of routes where the start times were incorrect. For example, multiple routes at the Oak Ridge School were slated to start about 15 to 20 minutes before the school day is set to begin.
On Friday, August 30, superintendent Pamela A. Gould sent out an automated call and an email to parents acknowledging that there were still problems with the bus schedules.
“We got those routes when you did and we have had some of the same concerns,” she said.
In her message, she said that the person who had been the yard manager with First Student resigned at the beginning of the summer.
“She had more knowledge in her pinky about bus routes than I could ever have,” she said. “This was a loss to First Student.”
Dr. Gould also said that the company was using a new computer program to schedule the routes, which caused some problems as well.
Once a third set of routes was released, some parents began to notice that their children’s bus stop had been omitted entirely.
On the first day of school Tuesday, September 3, Dr. Gould said that business manager Michelle Austin had been working with the bus company over the holiday weekend to fix the situation. Dr. Gould told parents that the best thing they could do would be to send their children to the same bus stop they were at last year, saying that the bus drivers know their children and would not leave them behind at a bus stop.
Most buses arrived at the schools on first day of school on time, but a few were late because of the route changes.
Compounding the problem on the first day was that the Sandwich Department of Public Works had scheduled street sweeping on Quaker Meetinghouse Road that morning, which is the main road to all three of the district’s schools. This caused some of the delays.
In the afternoon, buses at Forestdale did not arrive at the school by the 3:30 PM dismissal time and did not leave the school until 4:03 PM. Principal Christopher Dintino sent a notification to parents that afternoon asking for patience in the first few days of school while the routines were ironed out.
By the afternoon on the second day of school, paving along Quaker Meetinghouse Road had begun. This again caused delays for buses in the afternoon.
At the Sandwich School Committee meeting on Wednesday, September 4, Dr. Gould said that the First Student general manager had also retired, resulting in two significant personnel changes to the company.
She said that she had additional grievances about the situation, but that she did not want to air them publicly.
“Parents understand it wasn’t something we intended,” she said of the struggles.
Board vice chairman Kerri L. Ames suggested that in the future, bus routes be sent to the school board for review. She said that the committee has five members who have children on five different routes and the extra sets of eyes could be useful.
Dr. Gould said that she appreciated the offer, but that it should not have to come to those measures.
The most recent update on the school district’s website says that the site was update on Friday, August 30. The district is continuing to work with First Student to ensure that the bus routes are now correct.