Portland parents with elementary school-age children said Thursday they were glad to hear school officials are working on fixing problems with a new yellow-bus schedule this fall, but they hoped some changes would happen a bit faster.

“Our preference is to switch (bus stops) as soon as possible,” said Michael Brown, who was picking up his two daughters, students at Ocean Avenue Elementary School, at a bus stop on Congress and Edwards streets. Brown and his Libbytown neighbors have been lobbying the district to have bus stops on interior streets, not high-traffic Congress Street.

Robert Carignan, who was picking up his 8-year-old son, Scotty, agreed. He said district officials have been talking to parents, but there’s still no concrete sign they will change the stops.

“We understand the transportation director came in and had this mess, but they didn’t get responsive until we raised a big stink,” Carignan said.

School district officials said Wednesday that they will make changes next fall to either the yellow school bus system or to school start times, to avoid the problems that arose this year.

The district consolidated bus routes this year in conjunction with an initiative to add 20 minutes to the school day, change school start times and begin having high school students use city buses, freeing up more of the fleet. Last year, buses made as many as three trips to each school in order to pick up and drop off all the students, some of whom wouldn’t get home until 1½ hours after school ended.

The timing problem has largely affected elementary schools, which are divided into two groups and start 20 minutes apart. The idea was to have yellow school buses make runs to multiple schools, but instead they have had logistical problems that include one bus arriving at East End School 10 minutes before staff arrives, forcing students to wait on the bus with the driver for that period, or at the end of the day, not having buses available to pick up students at Presumpscot Elementary school until an hour after classes ended, forcing teachers and students to wait in the cafeteria.

Interim Superintendent Jeanne Crocker told the School Board operations committee Wednesday that it would be too disruptive to make major changes this year, such as changing start times, but that district staff would draw up a proposal to change the situation for next fall.

In the meantime, the district is continuing to make smaller changes to bus routes in order to smooth out the timing issues, Crocker said. Among the accommodations already made this year, Crocker said, were borrowing buses from the Bonny Eagle school district, changing the number of buses on certain routes and using temporary drivers to fill vacant positions.

The district made some of those changes to bus schedules starting Sept. 21, Deputy Chief Operations Officer Craig Worth told the operations committee Wednesday.

At Presumpscot, they are “very happy” with the changes, which produced “a vast improvement in their time,” he said.

Officials are continuing to work with other schools on specific issues, Worth said.

“As the week goes on, we’ll see how times are and we’ll work on that,” he said.


Some parents said Thursday they aren’t having any late bus problems, but they’re concerned about safety issues, because buses have been re-routed off side streets and onto artery streets.

Parent Stacy Aceto said she thinks a new bus stop in her neighborhood will be a problem in wintertime. The bus has also sometimes been late dropping off her twin kindergarten daughters, who attend Presumpscot.

“I didn’t expect that with school starting earlier, the bus (coming home) would be later,” said Michelle Hawkes, who was waiting for her 9-year-old Presumpscot fourth-grader, Hannah, to come off the bus. Hawkes, cradling a newborn to her chest and pushing a stroller with a toddler, said she now has to walk four-tenths of a mile to the bus stop. She used to be able to see it from her porch.

“What am I going to do when it starts snowing?” Hawkes asked. A neighbor, Anthony Aceto, nodded: “We’re all going to be driving, lined up right there,” he said, pointing to the stretch of road by the bus stop.

Transportation officials said they were continuing to evaluate the routes and would do more safety evaluations after daylight-saving time ends Nov. 1 and in the wintertime when snowplows and snowbanks could become an issue.


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