Just one week before the school year starts in Shelton, some parents are concerned as a spat plays out between the city and the Office of the Superintendent.
As of Tuesday, the superintendent’s office said they weren’t sure the city has met the requirements of their transportation agreement, specifically to drug test drivers who worked this summer.
The school district’s top boss says he’ll be inspecting driver’s records Wednesday.
The city took over the school bus operations at the end of the school year, after a contract with a national provider ended.
Mayor Mark Lauretti said while they didn’t do drug tests immediately, the national provider had just days before and that the superintendent’s office claim is all just politics.
In the meantime, parents who spoke with NBC Connecticut said they don’t even know the school bus schedule yet.
They are concerned, as the wheels on the bus make being a working parent possible.
“It’s very important for us because we have to get to and from work and putting them on the bus makes it easiest to get to work on time,” says Tiffany Blue-Royal, a mother of a 6-year-old.
Safety is big concern for parents.
“My little guy right here, he’s in kindergarten, so I’m putting the hands driving my little baby to school and it’s scary,” said Jennifer Picheco, mother of a 6-year-old.
A statement Wednesday afternoon from the Office of the Superintendent titled “The Uncertainty of School Transportation in Shelton” said this is the second year in a row “the district, the students and their families, face uncertainty about reliable and safe transportation to and from school,” as the office of the superintendent questions the city’s commitment to their agreement to drug test and have a background test done for every bus driver.
Lauretti said safety is his number one priority. He said the drivers had been tested by the national operator not long before the transportation system changed hands.
“This is all part of the political posturing that goes on. We used the same bus drivers, the same management team, the same vehicles that they did just ten days prior.”
The mayor explained that the city thought that covered the drivers for the summer. He said new testing was done last week.
Superintendent Clouet said in a written statement, " I am hopeful that the City is making every effort to meet the requirements of the commitment they made. Starting the school year on time, with reliable and safe transportation is essential for our students and their families."
Shelton Board of Education chairman Mark Holden told NBC Connecticut he had concerns that the drivers were tested.
"By law, bus companies test and background check every driver when they are hired. After that, a percentage of drivers are randomly tested on a quarterly basis. The woman I spoke with said with the contract expiring, there would be no reason to test drivers after the end of the school year. It would be an unnecessary expense for them," Holden wrote in an email to NBC Connecticut.
He said that he was concerned about a lack of communication from the mayor's office.
"Student transportation is a new venture for the City. We'd like more of a collaborative effort so we can help ensure things that need to happen are on the radar," he added.
For parents, this spat is a stresser just seven days before their kids are supposed to board the bus.
“Is it being resolved? Is it being fixed? Things like that and it doesn’t help with the kids ‘cause then it stresses the kids out too,” said Blue-Royal.
“I really don’t know what’s going on because nothing is ever very clear, so you just want to know the answers and you want to make sure that the kids are safe,” Picheco
The union for the bus drivers said they can’t comment on the conflict between the mayor and superintendent, but they said “Shelton’s school bus drivers are following instructions from their employer and will be ready to deliver Shelton’s most precious cargo when school starts for students next week.”