Getting children to and from school in a timely manner continues to be a challenge for Gloucester Public Schools after implementing four separate transportation schedules this fall.
Efforts to cope with the destruction of Page Middle School now have all county sixth and seventh graders traveling to Peasley Middle School, while all county eighth graders attend classes in temporary modular units staged at Gloucester High School. There are separate bus runs for both of those locations, along with a run for GHS and another schedule of runs to serve the six county elementary schools.
The added runs resulted in several buses arriving late last week at the GHS modular cluster now known as Page Middle. School division transportation director Roger Kelly told the Gloucester School Board Tuesday that students were arriving on time this week, but many are still experiencing lengthy rides.
"We’re traveling a lot further to cover the entire county. Many of our roads are only one way in and one way out, so even if only one child lives along that road, you still have to go in and then come back out again," Kelly explained. In some instances, he said the bus may have to travel the entire length of a road or street to reach a spot where it can turn around.
Kelly said some students have a one-way ride that lasts an hour and 20 minutes. He said he has made some adjustments, but now has a couple of buses with only 15 to 20 riders as part of the effort to get everyone to school on time.
"Initially we did not ask for added drivers, but we may come back and ask for two or three more drivers next month," Kelly said. He added that three of his transportation office staffers have also been pitching in to help with the driving, taking them away from their usual duties.
Kelly said additional buses are also needed. The division lost eight buses to the tornado that devastated Page, and insurance coverage replaced only three. He said many of his 115 buses on the road are 18 to 19 years old and have well over 100,000 miles on them. "Right now we’re making it, but it’s getting really tight," he said.
Adding 23 new school buses at a cost of $1.9 million in the next fiscal year is included in the FY 2013-2017 long-range capital plan the board approved during its Tuesday meeting.