New Haven parents are fuming after the school district released a new set of bus routes, changing some stop locations and eliminating others altogether.
The school district’s leaders said the changes are about eliminating redundancies on bus routes and improving student health and activity.
“There were dozens of bus stops where no one actually got on because those people were no longer in the system either through graduation or moving away. This year we cleaned all of the data and reestablished the routes effectively from scratch,” said New Haven Public School Chief Operating Officer Michael Pinto.
But given the pushback from parents, the district is now saying sorry, and they claim they’re going to try to fix things.
“I want to apologize to families. My operations team had assured me that we could reduce some of the redundancies in our buses as well as create greater efficiencies throughout the district and they didn’t quite get this right,” Dr. Carol Birks, the superintendent, said Thursday morning. “As superintendent of schools, I extremely apologize and say to families, we will get this right.”
She vowed to be on the buses and assess what occurred.
“They’re ridiculous, I’m sorry to say it that way but it’s ridiculous,” said parent Loyda Hernandez.
Hernandez learned over the weekend that her kids’ bus stops are moving further away, and one child is losing a ride to school altogether.
“That’s not fair, not only for my child, but for other little kids that have to walk,” Hernandez said.
The school district said K-8 students must now live more than a half mile from the school to get bus service. It’s a mile and a half for high schoolers.
Instead of catching the bus, this year Hernandez’s high school sophomore will have to walk from the family’s home on Shepard Street to school at Hillhouse High, which could take as long as 30 minutes.
“I want them to put the stops where they were before,” Hernandez said.
A day before school started, hundreds of parents showed up at district headquarters, angry about the changes they said are poorly planned, inconvenient, and in some cases, unsafe.
School Board President Darnell Goldson said the board wasn’t consulted about the route changes and the school district’s plan wasn’t thought out.
“This roll out wasn’t tested before it was rolled out and that’s frustrating because they had all summer to do it,” Goldson said. “I think they’re trying to save some money and they’re just realizing they made a mistake now. “
Recognizing the mistake, the district’s COO said they’re now reevaluating the bus changes, though families will have to tolerate their problematic routes, at least for now.
“We sincerely apologize for that. Its raised significant concerns and anxiety in our New Haven Public Schools family,” Pinto said. “If you received a bus assignment, please follow that for the time being, but we are working to address your issue.”
The school district wasn’t about to provide numbers for how many families are losing or gaining service, or how much money they are saving.
But they said they’re working on fixes and admitted some of those stops are in places they shouldn’t be.
“I apologize to families. It just breaks my heart to see that this happened … I had received assurances that this would not occur. I met with First Student and they have also made a commitment to providing additional supports so that we have a great start to the school year, but we’re excited about the students and I take this personally because these are all my children,” Birks said.
The new changes will be announced on September 9.