School bus issues still hot in Milton
MILTON Milton School Board Transportation Committee members on Monday were quick to pounce on liability and communications issues linked to the district's after school bus transfer system.
But at the same meeting, committee members sidestepped a more complex issue—the specter of lengthening ride times.
Committee members Tom Westrick, Wilson Leong and Janet Green on Monday had a roundtable discussion with the district's bus contractor, Go Riteway. The committee probed bus company officials on the chain of communications between district schools and parents—and the policies the company has in place for safety of younger students transferring buses after school.
The committee asked Riteway to:
-- Resume mailing annual busing contracts to parents, which was a past practice in the district, officials said. The contracts would show parents what time their children would get picked up and dropped off, if the student would have an afternoon bus transfer, and how that process works.
-- Set up a chain of communication with Riteway being the first to receive, respond to and direct parent phone calls on busing issues.
-- Mail a survey to update Riteway's transportation data. Riteway officials said Monday it's been "two or three years" since it updated its databases on how individual district families use busing.
The district and Riteway have been in hot water over the elementary school bus transfer at Northside Intermediate School, a daily part of busing that's been blamed for a kindergarten student getting on the wrong bus last month.
At the same time, the district heard an earful from parents who say ride times have increased by 15 or 20 minutes after school—a problem Riteway and the district blame on Highway 26 construction.
Changes discussed by the committee and Riteway didn't directly address ride times, and the talks didn't seem to satisfy Noah Lamson, one parent at the meeting.
For the second time this month, Lamson asked the board to consider transferring his son Samuel from Milton West Elementary to Consolidated School. He said the change would cut his son's 80-minute afternoon bus ride by more than in half.
Lamson also has asked the district to find another way to get K-3 elementary students home besides busing many of them to a transfer hub at Northside, where they must switch buses before going home.
He said that's how Samuel got lost and on the wrong bus one day last month.
Lamson and reporters pressed committee members Monday about whether they would give serious consideration to ride times or the potential of eliminating bus transfers for K-3 students.
That's not something the committee had intended to address Monday, Westrick said, but he said it could be "possibly looked into."
Some district officials have said it could cost $1 million to consolidate busing into one wave of routes.