During the first two weeks of school, Burlington Pubic Schools administration has faced several bussing issues. Many factors go into the busing strains, including traffic and the number of stops buses need to make.
BPS Director of Operations Bob Cunha explained to the School Committee that BPS is contracted for 18 large 71 passenger buses for general education.
These buses run on a 3 tier system.
Tier One: MSMS
Tier Two: Pine Glen, Fox Hill and Memorial
Tier Three: Francis Wyman and BHS
“We currently are looking at the routes every single day, multiple times from multiple facets,” Cunha said.
Cunha explained that there is less than a 30 minute window between each tier which is based on school start times. It takes 20 minutes between tiers without traffic and bus stops. With traffic and stops, delays begin to occur.
“At the middle school, because it’s our first run, we have time to leave earlier, but we don’t have flexibility on what time we drop off. The middle tier is locked, we can’t drop off early and we can’t drop off late. So anything that affects that middle tier affects, the 3rd tier,” Cunha said. “So that window is tight.”
“We are designing routes so that every child can get a seat on the bus,” BPS Superintendent Eric Conti clarified. “We’re not asking families to choose whether they ride or not.”
Conti acknowledged that the school buses aren’t getting to the high school on time.
“There’s not enough time to get from tier 2, pick up the high school students and get to the high school by 8:30am,” he said.
The current high school day is 8:30am-2:50pm. The high school buses are not all coming in by 8:30am, however they are all there by 8:40am. Conti proposed a 10 minute shift in the day to 8:40am-3:00pm. This change would allow 10 extra minutes needed for the buses to arrive on time.
This time change would not effect the teacher’s day, it would remain 8:05-3:10, however it would create a change in their contract for the year. Currently the teachers are required to stay 20 minutes after school, until 3:10. With the new school day, teachers would only be required to stay 10 minutes after the end of the day.
While School Committee Member Christine Monaco voted in favor of the change, she voiced her disappointment.
“We are driving the opening time of school around busing, instead of driving busing around the agreed upon times for school to start and end,” Monaco continued. “Maybe we need more buses and maybe it will cost more money, and so be it, let’s do it right.”
After much discussion, the School Committee voted unanimously to approve the proposed changes and Superintendent Conti addressed future busing plans.
“I’d like to spend some time prior to next year talking about how we design the routes, because what we’re doing is really unsustainable given the amount of traffic that we have and the number of buses that we have,” Conti stated.