Two new morning bus routes have been established to mitigate bus overcrowding in Wading River and Flanders.
During the school board’s regular meeting Tuesday, Superintendent Nancy Carney and Sam Schneider, assistant superintendent for finance and operations, outlined what the district has done to address overcrowding concerns raised by two Wading River parents at the Sept. 9 school board meeting.
Parents had claimed some students on bus number 120 had been forced to sit in the aisle because there isn’t enough room to fit three students to a seat.
A bus can hold up to 66 students under the current three-to-a-seat arrangement, which, Mr. Schneider said, is allowable under state law and is the Riverhead School District’s policy. He said there’s another Wading River bus that the district had anticipated 42 students, but recently found the actual ridership is only 24 students. That bus will now pick up other students from the bus number 120 route in order to ease overcrowding, he said.
In addition to Wading River, Mr. Schneider said he found during his investigation that a Flanders bus with 62 students also had an overcrowding issue. A different Flanders bus with a ridership of 32 students will now pick up additional students from that overcrowded bus, he said.
The new route for Wading River went into effect Monday morning, school board president Greg Meyer said, adding that the new route for Flanders will start next Monday, Sept. 29.
If the district were to change its policy to reduce bus capacity to two students per seat — totaling 44 students per bus — then the district would need to purchase about 10 additional buses, Mr. Schneider said. The new vehicles, drivers, and fuel would cost about $1.4 million, with a need for new buses every 7 to 10 years, he said.
Doreen Moore, one of the parents who originally complained to the BOE on Sept. 9 about bus 120, addressed the school board following Mr. Schneider’s presentation and said although she appreciates how the district has looked into parents’ concerns, she’s “baffled” by the new bus route.
“I’m not sure this fit is the correct fit for a long term effect if you want to save money on propane and diesel fuels,” she said. “Our route where we live is north of Sound Avenue. The bus that’s coming to get two [additional] stops … is further south — toward the middle of the island.”
Ms. Moore said she also believes students feel like they’re “being punished” because a monitor now rides the bus and other parents at the bus stop have told her that they’re now driving their children to school because they’re frustrated by the situation.
In addition to those concerns, Ms. Moore told the school board she followed her children’s bus for two days to Pulaski Street School because the bus had been dropping students off late. Although Ms. Moore said she found that her children’s bus arrived at school on time, she noticed other buses arrived late and asked the district to investigate those runs.
Ms. Carney said at the start of the presentation that the district is continuing to find ways to better streamline the district’s bus transportation system.
“Indeed, there are a couple of buses that are very full,” she said. “We are happy we were able to address that situation,” she said.