Cumberland schools change bus rules to ease traffic
Students must use the bridge; Durham again under fire
CUMBERLAND – School officials are set to change walking distance standards in schools as part of a multi-pronged approach to address the bus and traffic problems that plagued the start of the summer. year 2021-2022.
The school committee’s policies and procedures subcommittee unanimously recommended on Tuesday the adoption of a rewritten public transit policy changing walking distances from two miles to one mile for high school students, from 1 , 5 mile to three-quarters of a mile for classes 6-8, and three-quarters of a mile to half a mile for classes K-5.
President Mark Fiorillo has said he has rewritten the entire policy, including with regard to student expectations at bus stops and on buses.
Supt. Philip Thornton says Rhode Island has seen an increase in school traffic across the state during the pandemic, and Cumberland is one of the hardest hit communities as schools have seen an increase in the number of parents driving their children to and from from school.
“There are a lot more cars on the road and with that we are trying to solve problems,” Thornton said at a school committee meeting on Thursday, September 9th. “For the high school, we are also looking at the issues – how to solve and how to handle the number of cars, the volume of cars in high school is probably at an all time high.”
Thornton said at last week’s meeting that a discussion school officials have had with Durham School Services, the bus company with which schools have a new contract extension, is the possibility that drivers buses are picking up more students who are currently forced to walk due to distance eligibility rules.
Last year, the restriction of these distance requirements led many parents to voice safety concerns and start driving their children to school, leading to an increase in off-hours traffic. drop-off and pick-up.
Cumberland High School Discipline Dean Scott Carpenter helps oversee bus and transportation for the high school.
“In the morning, our main problem is that there are about 1,000 cars coming into high school, so in order to be able to control that traffic you literally have to have everyone on the bridge trying to get everyone on.” he said. “Morning traffic, I’ll be honest, it’s asking too much of the facility here, to put so many cars in this short period of time, we don’t have the proper setup. “
Carpenter said he believed part of the problem with the increased traffic was that the buses were less full, which he noticed.
“To be honest, increasing the two miles has increased the number of people driving their kids because I don’t know anyone who would want to walk from (Route) 99 in the morning to school,” Carpenter said. “So that also increased traffic. “
Due to increased traffic, schools plan to start tracking the number of cars arriving on campus to drop off students. They also asked parents who pick up their children to pick up their children from the parking lot adjacent to the Sher-Le-Mon Swim Club.
For students with a physical injury or disability, parents are asked to park at the back of the school until the buses leave, then park at the front where they can pick up their children near the school. entrance to the school.
With that rule in place, Carpenter said everything was better, but he said if the bus drivers are late and try to get to the school campus late, they disrupt the whole school. traffic and again create traffic jams.
Cumberland High School Principal Adolfo Costa said another way for the school to deal with traffic problems was to have high school students use the pedestrian bridge across Mendon Road and connect the high school to the playgrounds. parking across the street.
“The students were told, not asked but told, that they would use the bridge to move forward, coming in and out of school,” Costa said. “And they already use the bridge, whether they’re being looked after by their parents or using their own car.”
“The two days we made it mandatory for the bridge, it was absolutely fantastic,” said Carpenter. “The kids were certainly not happy with it, but they complied. “
School board member Denis Collins said he and the other members have received a plethora of complaints from parents about buses being delayed for pickup and return, making traffic jams worse.
“One of the problems that seem to be glaring, aside from the morning problems, is the afternoon return, especially at the community school, the arrivals at the bus stops are extremely bad at the moment” , did he declare.
Collins said he was monitoring bus pickup times and noticed that Bus Seven was constantly arriving late. He said the school break was at 3:15 p.m., but the bus regularly arrived after 4 p.m. each day. Collins said the distance from the community school to Tower Hill Road, where the bus is scheduled to go, is about two miles.
“Today the bus didn’t leave school until 4:15 pm,” Collins said. “It’s an hour after the dismissal that the children are even loaded onto the bus.”
Bus seven is used specifically for students with special needs and, according to Durham, there must be someone to watch and help these students.
“So what can be done, because you know you are dealing with a child with special needs who sits in the lobby for an hour,” Collins said. “Especially a vulnerable population like this, it sounds ridiculous, and I know the parents are angry and we can only tell the parents to be patient.”
Jennifer Goodwin, Cumberland resident and teacher, spoke to committee members about her own experience with the Seven Bus.
“My daughter is on Bus Seven, so it’s disappointing to hear and know everything that happened with the bus,” Goodwin said. “Her Durham bus time is 8:33 am, and the earliest she was picked up is 8:55 am”
Goodwin said the extra half hour her daughter waits for the bus could impact her ability to sleep more, have a better breakfast, and have more time to play in the afternoon before due. start homework.
“It’s just disappointing, I know it’s only six days away and I usually give a week before I start complaining,” Goodwin said. “But I feel like the problems should be sorted out now.”
Collins said he explained the domino effect of buses not arriving on time, disrupting other traffic and creating traffic jams for parents, but parents are frustrated, especially in light of the contract renewal with Durham, who was the target. of complaints year after year.
“It’s a bad aspect for Durham, and we have a lot of confidence in you and hope you can fix it,” Collins said. “This relationship under the new contract is not off to a good start, whatever the cause of some of these problems.”