EAST LYME — The school district plans to add an extra bus route for East Lyme Middle School following complaints by parents that some buses had been consistently late picking children for school.
“For the most part things have smoothed out, but there still are two buses, in particular [bus] three is the most problematic in the morning,” Superintendent Jeffrey Newton told the board of education on Monday. “What’s been our focus the whole time is getting kids to school on time.”
Earlier this month, the school district pushed all bus stop pickup times back by 10 minutes in the morning.
“We appreciate your understanding and patience with the bus issues that have occured this year,” Newtown wrote in a September 10 letter to school district parents announcing some of the changes. “We understand that this has negatively affected families and has caused stress for some students.”
In email to CT Examiner, Newton said that a recent redistricting of the three elementary schools, and cutting two buses out of the district budget for fiscal year 2019-20, contributed to the delays.
The redistricting plan, which had been discussed for years and went into effect this past month, is intended to more evenly distribute students between Flanders School, Lille B. Haynes School, and Niantic Center School.
That plan required rerouting East Lyme school buses, routes which led to frequent delays in the first weeks of the school year.
Four parents came to the school board’s September 9 meeting and expressed concerns about the buses, according to meeting minutes.
Newton told the school board on September 16, that the change to earlier pickup times had effectively solved the delays at the middle school and high school.
“Now we’re just talking [delays on] elementary school runs,” he said. “The high school and middle school have been OK.”
Newton also explained that by adding an additional route for the middle school, effectively dividing the most delayed middle school route in two, the buses should be able to complete later routes for the elementary schools on time.
Newton added that one additional bus route, for Flanders School, wasn’t consistently late, but had been late more than is acceptable.
Kimberly Davis, school district director of student services, explained that the Flanders bus route didn’t have a particularly large number of students, but the route did require buses to travel a longer distance into Flanders along the border with Salem. Davis said staff have been researching ways to tweak the route to make it more efficient.