Changes to Portland’s new school bus routes are unlikely, according to some of the roughly 25 parents who met with Portland School Department officials on Wednesday.

Parents concerned about the safety of the new bus routes met with Craig Worth, the school department’s director of operations, and with Transportation Director Fred Barlow, who is responsible for setting the routes. Most of the parents live in Portland’s Libbytown neighborhood between Congress Street and Brighton Avenue.

Worth and Barlow listened to their concerns, and Barlow agreed to ride on a school bus to learn why parents have safety concerns. Barlow followed through, riding a route Thursday morning.

Barlow said he also received a new bus route proposal from a parent Thursday, but was noncommittal when asked if changes might be made.

Gilda Bryand, the parent of two elementary school children, attended Wednesday night’s meeting at the Ocean Avenue Elementary School.

“The feeling I got is that really nothing is going to change,” Bryand said. “I’m concerned because my children have to stand and wait for a bus on a sidewalk and the road they are standing beside is very busy. Cars are going real fast and it can be kind of hairy at best.”

Under the new bus route system, Bryand walks her children, ages 7 and 8, to the school bus stop at Congress and Craigie streets.

“In the past, they were picked up at a our driveway, but I don’t expect that. It has been a luxury,” Bryand said.

She said a safer alternative to the new route would be to have buses pick up students on Elizabeth Street, which cuts through the heart of the Libbytown neighborhood.

Mike Podolsky, who lives on Edwards Street, said his 8-year-old son rode the bus last year. Now, Podolsky drives his son to school.

“I got the sense at last night’s meeting that it was going to be a heavy lift for the school department to change anything,” Podolsky said. “They seemed more interested in getting the buses to school on time, but we weren’t there to talk about getting buses to school on time. It is where the kids have to wait for the bus that’s the problem.” In the past, school buses drove up and down side roads, picking children up on lightly traveled streets.

Under the new system, buses only travel on major thoroughfares. The school district decided to consolidate bus routes this fall in conjunction with a change in school start times and having high school students use city buses, freeing up more of the school bus fleet for younger grades.

With more buses available and two elementary school start times, school officials wanted to have each bus take only one trip to and from each school rather than have to drive more than one route in the morning or afternoon.. But with just 20 minutes between start times, the trips have to be quick. That’s why routes were moved to main roads such as Congress Street.

Barlow said he is still reviewing the new route proposed by a parent. He pointed out that under the new system, students always board the bus on its right side, which means they do not have to cross main roads like Congress Street or Brighton Avenue to reach the stop.

“The information is still coming in and we’re still taking feedback,” he said.

Podolsky said it’s unlikely that Barlow or school department staff will make an exception to the newly established routes.

“The only way for this to be resolved is for the policy makers to step in,” Podolsky said of the school board. “(Barlow and Worth) seemed pretty entrenched.


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