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September 4, 2013

Parents, school board criticize bus company, drivers

NEWBURYPORT — Parents and concerned residents got an opportunity to air complaints last night to the School Committee about the chaos and confusion with bus transportation during the opening two days of school last week.

Several parents spoke before the committee and expressed their displeasure with buses arriving late for pickups in the morning, kids arriving home as much as two hours late, and students being dropped off at the wrong stops. These problems, especially during last Wednesday’s first day of school, reportedly left parents frantic and children anxious and distraught.

In addition, the issues of severe bus overcrowding and drivers not knowing the correct routes were raised.

The committee received criticism for its failure to communicate and adequately inform the public about the bus schedules, routes and changes.

“It’s frustrating to have to go through this,” said parent Sue-Ellen Lamb. “We’d all like to see more detailed communication between the school and the public.”

Superintendent Susan Viccaro responded by admitting last Wednesday’s bus trouble was a “fiasco” that can’t be repeated. She added that she set up a meeting with an official from Salter Transportation, the company that operates the school buses, last Thursday morning.

“The information I received from Salter at that meeting was that over the last two years, ridership has increased by 96 students,” she said. “Overcrowded buses are a safety issue, so we’re adding an additional bus, and there will be a realignment of bus routes. Parents who are directly impacted by these changes will receive notification and will be kept informed.”

Viccaro said she should have information on bus route adjustments by tomorrow.

No representative from Salter was present at the meeting, and committee member Daniel Koen said that the company could be in breach of its contract, since it’s not providing efficient service.

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