Parents are worried about their children’s safety, as a result of a change to the Scarborough school bus routes, creating fewer stops in more centralized areas for pickups.

At the school board’s meeting on Thursday, Gayla Underkoffler of Arbor View Lane told the board she was concerned that she could no longer see her child board the bus after the district moved the bus stop to Portland Farms Road.

She said Portland Farms Road is busy and she is concerned for the safety of the children waiting for the bus.

“Our issue isn’t convenience … it’s safety,” she said.

Parents in the Highland Avenue and Pleasant Hill Road areas waiting for the bus Wednesday morning had similar feelings.

“The problem is by being out here at the end of the street you have more chances of kids getting hit by cars,” said Andy Campbell, a Fowler Farm Road resident who, along with a number of other parents, now waits with children at the Pleasant Hill Road intersection.

The parents noted that most could not see their children board the bus and said two stops in the subdivision would make more sense. They also questioned the savings the town was receiving by eliminating some bus stops.

“Safety, I think, overrides everything,” said Bhagya Chandra of Fowler Road, who submitted a letter with 35 signatures to the school district outlining the neighborhood’s complaints.

Parents at the Fairway Drive and Highland Avenue intersection had similar thoughts and would like to see the bus stop moved down Fairway Drive.

According to Jeff Ertman, the parents’ biggest concerns are safety and, with the bus stop at the Highland Avenue intersection, the increased chance of a child being struck by a car. Already neighbors have cut back some tree branches to give better line of sight at the intersection.

Ertman, who has contacted the district with his concerns, said neighborhood parents would most likely work out some sort of arrangement this year so there is always one parent at the bus stop with the children.

“One wrong misstep and they are in Highland Avenue,” said Darcy Foerster of Fairway Drive.

Other parents waiting for the bus Tuesday afternoon had different feelings.

“I don’t think it’s made much of a difference,” said Christine Carpenter, who was waiting at the Two Rod Road and Memory Lane intersection.

The person most affected in that area is Amey Leadley, who lives on Two Rod Road. The bus used to pick up Leadley’s child in front of her home. Now her child has to cross the street and walk several yards to the Memory Lane intersection. But she was sympathetic to the school’s plight.

“I loved it the old way, but I understand the need for it,” she said, adding good neighbors are making the situation a lot easier.

At the end of last year the school district agreed to consolidate bus routes and create centralized bus stops for certain areas of town. The bus stops have been reviewed by the Scarborough Police Department.

The new policy states that bus stops will be located within a quarter-mile of homes of children in kindergarten through fifth grade, and within a half-mile of homes of children in grades 6 to 12.

Scarborough Transportation Director Scott Macomber said each stop’s location was chosen based on the individual neighborhood. He said those living in cul-de-sac neighborhoods would be more likely to walk than those living on some of the town’s busier roads like Black Point Road or Route 1.

“The problem is everyone thinks their road is busy,” Macomber said.

He estimates the new policy has reduced the bus stops by half, leaving now some 1,000 stops.

The bus stops complaints have been forwarded to a safety committee comprised of bus drivers, residents and school administrators. The committee, which is chaired by Wentworth Principal Anne Mayre Dexter, will hold its first meeting on Sept. 8.

The committee will focus on whether there is a safety issue or if the problem is related to convenience, according to Herb Hopkins, district business manager.

Parents will state their case during the meeting and the committee will tour the bus stops in question. The committee will then recommend to the school administration on whether to keep the stop or change it.

The main complaints have to do with parents not being able to see their children board the bus. But Macomber said it is the parents’ responsibility to get their children to the bus stop safely. The district’s responsibility to making sure the bus stop is safe and children are transported to school safely, he said.

Another complaint that Macomber has received is regarding buses being overcrowded. While buses are fuller this year, they have never been overcrowded, he said.

“It’s well within the guidelines established by the feds and the bus manufacturers,” Macomber said.

Some bus stops have already been altered. For example, there were several bus stops on Route 1 near the town public safety building, which were moved off Route 1, into the neighborhood, to ensure that traffic would not be backed up during the busy morning commute.

Children boarding a bus at Fairway Drive Wednesday morning.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.