Start of school brings busing problems to Riverhead

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Buses leaving Pulaski Street School Tuesday.

If your child’s trip home on the school bus took longer than usual this week — and he or she attends the Riverhead School District — you are not alone.

Several parents reported lengthy delays on the way home from Riverhead schools, particularly Pulaski Street School, during this first week of classes of the 2011-12 year.

One mother reporting that it took her son and daughter two and half hours to to travel to Wading River.

“The buses this year are so overloaded, I’ve never seen them this crowded,” said Kristen Rozmus Wharton of 20th Street in Wading River. She said her children’s bus had to make many stops since it was so packed, and that there were three students to a seat.

Though school is dismissed from Pulaski Street at 3:25 p.m., her fifth-grade daughter and fifth-grade son did not arrive home until 5:55 p.m. Tuesday, she said.

She added that the only way she knew where her children were was through friends who were in similar predicaments.

“If it wasn’t for Facebook yesterday, I probably would have had a heart attack,” she said, explaining how posts from other parents helped keep her informed in real-time.

Flanders mom Sue Farrell said it took her sixth-grade daughter an hour to get home on the first day of school. That’s because the bus drops students off in the Red Creek section of Hampton Bays — the furthest location west in Southampton Town that serves the Riverhead School District — before circling back and dropping off Ms. Farrell’s daughter close to their Fanning Road home, located near Flanders Memorial Park.

She said she would like the bus to drop off her child before traveling further east instead.

“If they cant fix this, I am going to request my daughter be left up the road from Long Neck [Boulevard],” she said. “But I don’t like the idea of her walking along the highway.”

District officials acknowledged the problems with the bus routes, but asked for patience while an improved scheme is worked out.

“Please be patient during the first few days of school while the bus routes are getting ironed out,” Transportation Director Amal Cain states on the district’s website.

Riverhead School District Nancy Carney said that most problems should be fixed by the end of the week.

“The first few days of school normally have delays with transportation, but clearly the delays we experienced yesterday are unacceptable,” Ms. Carney said in an email. “The same buses that are used to dismiss high school students are then used for middle school students and finally elementary school students.  Therefore delays early in the afternoon cause residual delays later in the afternoon.”

It was not immediately clear if the transportation department, like other departments in the district, is suffering steep budget cutbacks that could account for such delays. Five bus drivers retired at the end of the 2010-11 school year. It was not immediately clear if their positions had been filled.

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