Real Deal: Bus Route Regulations
Updated: Wednesday, March 20 2013, 01:56 PM EDT
DELMAR - How long is too long? That's the question being asked by parents in the Bethlehem School District. New bus routes have some students riding for more than one hour, each way.
Lorna Plunkett has three kids in three different schools in Bethlehem and this year the district made some drastic changes to their bus routes. "My son would be on the bus two hours a day, that may not sound like a lot... two hours a day initially but then you figure 10 hours a week, 40 hours a month, it's a quarter of his day on the bus," she says. She, and other parents on her street, complained to the district but were told the new routes are a cost-saving measure. "It's only 10 minutes from the high school, it's not 30 minutes, it's not 45 minutes...it's 10 minutes away, so it shouldn't take an hour for my son to get to school in the morning," Plunkett tells CBS6.
"A lot of folks think that these buses run from A to B, that's not the case," says Al Karam, the Transportation Supervisor for Bethlehem Schools. "It's not unreasonable for a child to be on the bus for up to an hour-and-a-half each way but here in Bethlehem we're still trying to keep it under 60 minutes," he says.
Superintendent Dr. Tom Douglas says the district did a route overhaul this year because they were getting complaints that buses were near empty and money was being wasted, "before, we were always hearing that our buses were not fill, so now we are using our buses to capacity," he tells CBS6. And when he says capacity, he means it. Not only are the routes longer, the buses are much fuller. New York State law allowes 2 middle or high school students to a seat and 3 elementary students to a seat and that's exactly how the district is filling its buses.
"They're going to start getting tired earlier in school and I think it could affect their academics," says Plunkett who thinks the district should re-think the new routes. Douglas says, the new changes are a done-deal, "there are many reports out there, when students should start school, when students should be at their peak performance, the difficulty is we run a complex organization that has to meet everyone's demands," he says.
The changes will save the district between $600,000 and $800,000 this year alone and they all meet state regulations. Plunkett isn't sure this is the best area to be tightening the belt, "I knew there were changes coming with the transportation because of the budget, they were trying to save money but I didn't realize how drastic is was going to be," she says.