District works out kinks in new bus system

CHATHAM–The Board of Education heard this week that the district is likely to be able to remove a source of controversy over a new busing system. And Schools Superintendent Cheryl Nuciforo discussed a proposed capital project at the Tuesday, September 22, meeting.

Ms. Nuciforo said the district is very close to meeting the requests from 40 families for special busing arrangements. The new one-bell system that began this fall means elementary, middle and high school students ride the buses at the same time instead of in staggered morning and afternoon bus runs. The new system has meant more students ride each bus, and district officials originally were not sure they would be able to allow students to switch buses to accommodate child care needs.

But after two weeks of school, Ms. Nuciforo said the district has been watching the buses closely and now has a better handle on schedules and capacity. Next week she plans to contact the 40 families who originally made requests for special bus pick-ups and drop-offs.

The initial caution expressed by the district caused some parents to voice complaints and concerns about the new restrictions at a special meeting in August and at weekly board meetings in September. Paul Freeman, a Hudson lawyer, attended the board meeting two weeks ago to represent one parent who has a custody agreement that calls for a student to take different buses.

Though she was confident the district could meet the 40 requests, Ms. Nuciforo said the board still needs to set guidelines for future requests. She wants to limit bus capacity at 52 students. “It’s better to be conservative,” she said of that target.

New requests beyond the initial 40 will be addressed on a first-come-first served basis this year. The superintendent said that requests for next year would need to be in by April 1, according to state guidelines.  

She also praised the district’s bus drivers for how they’re handling the new system. Ms. Nuciforo has been riding the buses and says she has been on about a third of the routes. “I am extremely impressed with our drivers,” she said. She praised their focus on safety and their interactions with students.

On October 6 the district will hold a public meeting to present the proposed $1.4-million capital project. Using federal stimulus money and funds already in the district’s capital reserve account, the school board expects the project will have no tax impact on district residents. 

“Using money we’ve got–that and state aid–we don’t have to ask the taxpayers for anything,” said Ms. Nuciforo. The project would include improvements to the schools and grounds to bring them into compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. The plan would also address energy efficiency needs and programming issues in the some of the classrooms.

“Everything that is on that list won’t fit” in the project, she said of all the scope of work she presented this week. The district architect will attend the October 6 meeting.

For information about upcoming meetings go to the district website at www.chathamcentralschools.com.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

 

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