New Bus Routes posted (along with explanation of situation)

by beth on September 10, 2018

This afternoon, the new Northborough-Southborough school bus routes were posted to the district website. Superintendent Christine Johnson emailed parents about the situation.

In the message, she noted that the administration had received calls that “represented” about 15% of bus riders. It also states some requested changes weren’t made that would have put buses on access roads “unsafe to navigate”.

The message also claims a silver lining:

The decision to have NRT schedule our routes was purposeful and designed to capitalize on NRT’s expertise and experience in routing. While difficult, had we not turned over this process to them this year, we would not have identified a significant longitudinal flaw in our scheduling processes and the manner in which we maintain our student database. This process, while frustrating, uncovered database issues that we have now resolved and established a new process for inputting and saving student information, which includes integrating student data with our student information management system.

Here is the full message:

The updating of the bus routes based on the input received since the opening of school is complete. As of today, the new routes, which should encompass most of the changes requested, are posted on our District website. North Reading Transportation (NRT) has notified us that these changes are made and the drivers are prepared to follow them as listed on Tuesday. We have requested NRT run the routes today. Not all of the changes were made, as some required school buses to access roads that were unsafe to navigate. Our schools have the current routes, which include the student information and assigned buses. We recommend that students are available for pick-up 10 minutes before the posted time and that parents review the list closely to verify the bus number that corresponds to the routing as some bus numbers may have changed.

Central Office has been actively involved in managing the calls and emails received from the school community. The calls represented approximately 15% of our total ridership. Each inquiry was equally important. Each concern was addressed with the same singular focus – solve the problem. Solving the problem was complex, embedded and required time to identify a corrective action and to implement. The information provided us the necessary data to address safety, street assignments, grade level times, and individual student pick-ups. In the past, these were handled at each school. This year’s process provided Central Office with information to make significant changes in the process of modifying transportation routes. This year we responded to three times the number of calls we typically receive in a school year. It was disappointing, frustrating and unacceptable and the most challenging start I have observed in eight years.

North Reading Transportation, like many bus companies, schedules the routes for school districts and the districts conduct minimal edits to address unique situations. Bus routes should not change significantly from year to year as the students remain in the routing software system, known as Transfinder. The decision to have NRT schedule our routes was purposeful and designed to capitalize on NRT’s expertise and experience in routing. While difficult, had we not turned over this process to them this year, we would not have identified a significant longitudinal flaw in our scheduling processes and the manner in which we maintain our student database. This process, while frustrating, uncovered database issues that we have now resolved and established a new process for inputting and saving student information, which includes integrating student data with our student information management system.

Moving forward, we are instituting measures to ensure that regardless of who is scheduling the routes, the information needed and the process to do so is valid and consistent. The solution to the identified problems required a Central Office team working closely with NRT. This has been a high priority since before the opening of school.

In closing, our administration reported a smooth start to the school year, considering our bus transportation situation. The collaboration with NRT will continue throughout this school year. If you have concerns regarding the bus routes, please email Nancy Bissett, nbissett@nsboro.k12.ma.us. NRT has requested that we allow 72 hours before additional editing to stabilize the routes, adjust times or make other necessary modifications. If there is a continued safety concern not otherwise addressed, please email or call, and this will immediately be referred to NRT. The weekly communications have begun and highlight exciting opportunities and invitations for families to engage in school life.

Thank you for your continued support and understanding as we implement these changes. I appreciate that this One Call is unusually long, however, it is important to share this information with the school community.

Christine M. Johnson

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