This week, the Northborough-Southborough School District issued another Transportation Update. It reiterates their improved process for determining bus routes for this fall.
This summer, the district has taken back control of programming the routes. The administration hopes to for a smooth start to the school year. To help with that, they plan to post the new routes by Monday, August 19th – nine days before the start of school.
The administration doesn’t assume the routes posted on the 19th will be final. Parents are encouraged to look out for that information. Expect an email announcement to include details on:
a streamlined process for parent(s)/guardian(s) to request a bus stop change, communicate a concern, and for the communication of school bus changes to parent(s)/guardian(s)
Last summer, the district sought to use the expertise of its bus company (NRT) to help redesign bus routes. The intent was to improve efficiency of routes and shorten bus route times. There was hope that time could be shaved off of bus routes. That could have assisted in shifting the high school start time a little later without major disruptions to the lower schools.
Unfortunately, the result was far from that.
Initially posted bus routes were a complicated mess leading to a deluge of complaints and questions. Revised, reposted routes were riddled with more problems. (Some showed buses backtracking to pick up students the buses already passed. Some route times were excessive. Others showed logistically impossible short times, causing some drivers to start their routes well before the posted times, causing kids to miss the bus.) There were also communications issues, as last minute changes were sometimes missed by parents.
The school and bus company scrambled to rework the routes. But it took more than two weeks and several failed iterations. The final routes were posted on the 8th day of school. It was a tense time with parents upset and the district and bus company pointing fingers at each other over who was at fault.
This summer, the adminstration clearly hopes to avoid repeating any part of that fiasco. District staff are determining the routes, as they had in previous years. There will be a step that includes getting feedback from NRT. Most importantly, it will engage the drivers for their input.
The announcement also included a link to the school’s transportation policy, which linked to its guidelines. Those included:
Route Design: Each year, the transportation contractor in partnership with the districts, develops routes based on the location of the residencies, historical ridership numbers and will be determined on the basis of safety before convenience.
In addition, the following will be considered when creating the routes:
- Avoid students crossing the road to embark and/or depart from the bus, when possible;
- Maximize sitelines at bus stops for upcoming and oncoming vehicles, preferably 200 feet visibility in each direction;
- Site bus stops based on a worst-case scenario in regard to weather (snow banks, full foliage, etc.);
- Avoid private lanes, dead-end roads, and cul de sacs (reduce the need for buses to turn-around);
- Consider the route conditions (narrow roads, location of sidewalks, safe gathering spots, site lines, etc).
Bus stops: For elementary routes, (Kindergarten through Grade 5), the districts will endeavor to have walking distances to stops no greater than 0.2 of a mile. For secondary age students (Grade 6 through Grade 12), the districts will endeavor to have walking distances to stops no greater than 0.5 of a mile.
Bus stops will be established by the school district at locations, which will be determined on the basis of safety before convenience. Bus stops will be consolidated when feasible and safe.
Click here to open the school’s full announcement.