Bus Update: Transportation nightmares, a school apology, and next steps

by beth on August 28, 2019

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This morning, was a rocky start to the school year for many students waiting endlessly for a bus. This afternoon was apparently even worse. Some students were shifted to other buses. With buses somehow over capacity, kids were sitting on buses that couldn’t leave the school. Parents were complaining about kids apparently stranded and/or missing with late/insufficient communications.

At 5:54 pm tonight, Superintendent Greg Martineau emailed an apology, blaming the issues on a computer glitch. Parents are told to send their kids to the same stops tomorrow morning as they went to today. (There is no detail on how that will work.) For afternoon stops, fixes are currently in the works for 4 buses that were most impacted by the snafu. New routes will be posted on Sunday evening.

A couple of weeks ago, I had shared the Northborough-Southborough School District communication about how they were handling bus routes this year. It promised an improved process. The implication was that headaches this year wouldn’t be repeated. Unfortunately, today proved that the process was still somehow insufficient.

After planning to have bus routes frozen from August 23rd through mid-September, the administration was forced to post new schedules last night to address issues.

I don’t know all of the issues, but do have knowledge of some impacts to the Neary and Trottier routes. (That’s the route that follows Algonquin routes and precedes the Finn and Woodward routes.)

This morning, Bus 14 (the short bus used for roads difficult for the big ones to navigate) not only ran extraordinarily late but was purportedly unable to pick up part of its Neary/Trottier route after it reached full capacity. (Another bus had to be sent to pick up kids left behind.)

This afternoon, many students assigned to Bus 14 were reassigned to other buses. I’m told that at least one other Neary/Trottier bus was over capacity as a result this afternoon. Facebook is full of stories from parents complaining about the confusing aftermath.

Neary and Trottier schools end at 2:25 pm. At 3:41 pm, the administration sent out the following message to Trottier Middle School parents:

Dear parents and guardians:

We are experiencing significant delays in Trottier/Neary students arriving home this afternoon. This is impacting Neary/Trottier buses S3, S4, S12, and S14. We are anticipating the students will be dropped of in the next 30 minutes.

Respectfully, Greg Martineau

That message was 35 minutes after Finn and Woodward K-3 students get out of school. I have no idea what time those students (who ride the bus after the older kids are dropped off) got home.

Here is the message from the Superintendent sent out tonight: 

Good Evening:

As the Superintendent of Schools, I was hoping for a smooth transportation start to the school year, as a lot of time and effort went into trying to improve how the District delivers transportation services to its students. Although for many families, transportation went smoothly, for others, it did not. Regardless, it is my responsibility to ensure that there is safe transportation for students to and from school. It’s also my responsibility to make sure issues are rectified, which is my number one priority. I apologize to those families, and students, who were impacted today by the District’s transportation services. The focus of the first day of school should be about making it a great start for our students, not about transportation concerns.

I assembled the Transportation Department team this afternoon to identify what happened, why, and what needs to take place between now and tomorrow morning. The issue with the late buses this afternoon was due to a computer glitch, which our Technology Department is working to resolve. We are working in partnership with NRT to ensure that students are picked up and dropped off in a safe and timely manner tomorrow, Thursday, August 29, 2019.

Tomorrow morning, your child(ren) should wait at the bus stop that he/she was picked up this morning, August 28, 2019. The afternoon routes are currently being corrected for Southborough S3, S9, S12, and S14 and will be provided to the NRT drivers.

Please be assured that we are actively addressing outstanding concerns that have been received. We will be posting updated routes on Sunday evening, September 1, 2019, at 6:00 PM.

Link to NBORO Transportation Webpage  

Respectfully,

Gregory L. Martineau
Superintendent of Schools

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Richard August 28, 2019 at 8:03 PM

Computers don’t “glitch.” They do what they are programmed to do. If the logic of the program is flawed, the results will be, too. Rather than ascribe the bus-route problems to a computer glitch, the superintendent should fess up and say that the underlying route-planning data, information, and logic were faulty.

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2 Ben August 29, 2019 at 5:20 AM

The issue was far beyond a computer glitch. The night before school started, literally about 12-hours prior, we were notified that the Neary/Trottier bus stop was changed to the corner of the two streets in our neighborhood (High and Granuaile). Our streets have no sidewalks, the bus stop is at a hill so standing on the grass of the adjacent property is not an option so the kids waiting for the bus stand in the road. Also, this is where cars enter and exit route 30. When returning home yesterday my son is dropped off in this same location and walks back to our house, again in the road and yesterday also in the rain.

Despite all of these safety issues the school’s response is please continue to do this for the next couple of days. This is not only a poorly developed plan but one that was also terribly executed.

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3 Frank Crowell August 29, 2019 at 9:12 AM

If I were a school committee member, I would be asking about the qualifications of:

Pauline Joncas Rebecca Pellegrino

Transportation Coordinator Director of Finance and Operations

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4 Linda August 29, 2019 at 5:21 PM

We went through this same thing a few years ago. Not as bad. I believe the same people where in charge of the bus route. First day is tough enough for the kids and the schedules that change can mess with some of our kids with special needs. And please remember that the schools themselves are not in charge of the buses. I have seen many times when the bus company has issues and the school is not informed. Maybe doing the bus routes the simple way instead of realizing on the computer, might be better. I do not have kids in the school system anymore and was stressed reading what the parents where going through.

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5 Resident September 2, 2019 at 8:08 PM

Yes,Linda, we have been calling the same people for several year now. If you remember with last year’s fiasco, we were told to call Greg Martineau who never picked up his phone. What was the purpose of Superintendent Johnson (worst Superintendent in our history) putting him in charge of busses last year if he had no interest in actually doing the job. Oh, then lets put him in charge of the whole system because he is so great. School Committee doesn’t care. Rumor has it they let a few people go in the office but they keep these people who can’t answer a phone, can’t route a bus of kids and really doesn’t seem to care. Martineau comes from Hopkinton and they hold their routes for 2 weeks at the beginning of school, maybe that is where that grand idea came from. More of the same from him, just like Johnson. He doesn’t seem to give a damn and school committee should be all over this. WHERE ARE YOU SCHOOL COMMITTEE? These people work for you and you work for us. When they ask us ti approve their huge, wasteful budget, I hope we all remember this.

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6 southsider September 3, 2019 at 9:58 AM

Just reading thru the comments above… and was surprised to see no further comments about specific issues for the days following the first day of school.
I’m sure there must have been some lingering issues but maybe ( fingers crossed ) most of the Southboro bus problems were remedied…

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7 beth September 3, 2019 at 12:20 PM

I think a lot of parents were complaining over social media. Thursday afternoon still seemed rife with problems, confusion and late buses – although I believe not as bad as Wednesday.

From my observation, it appeared that the situation was under control by Friday. However, it also seemed that a lot of parents also picked K-8 kids up on Friday. (Many may have been heading away for the long weekend, others may have been avoiding headaches if they lacked confidence the problems were resolved).

So, today will be a better test. Fingers crossed that buses run smoothly this afternoon.

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