This summer, Pine Bush schools engaged in a complete rerouting of our entire transportation system. Using new software, considered an industry standard, we reworked our approximately 100 bus routes that transport our 5,385 students to and from school each day. That is true whether the student attends one of our Pine Bush schools, a private school, or a special school or program. It was a significant undertaking.
Our goal was to develop a more effective and efficient system that followed well-established transportation guidelines for public schools. That meant we worked to minimize having the same buses travel over some roads, consolidate some stops, and avoid certain roads like dead-end streets, private drives, and cul-de-sacs. We also expected that this rerouting would shorten the run times on many of our routes. In the long run, the new routes should give us a better, more effective, and efficient system (both in time and in cost).
Once we had tentatively developed our new routes, we provided them to our vendor, Birnie Bus this summer. We asked them to have their drivers actually drive the routes so that they could report any safety concerns that they detected from driving real streets in real time. Since we did not receive all of our feedback from the bus company until mid-August, we delayed sending out postcard notifications to parents until we were able to incorporate all of their suggestions. Those postcards were mailed to parents during the next to last week in August. When we sent the postcards, we also developed a review form and process that would provide families an opportunity to ask for review if they had any concerns. That form, the Bus Stop Review Form, was posted on our website for easy access.
Since that mailing we have learned two important things that we didn’t know at the time. First, Birnie Bus apparently did not drive all of the routes as we had requested. Second, as we began to review bus stop review requests, we figured out that many parents had benefited from driveway pickups not because we had assigned them, but because bus drivers for Birnie (and previously First Student) had simply accommodated that option for the convenience of the family. We have discovered numerous instances where families told us their stop had always been at their driveway, when our previous routes indicated it should have been elsewhere.
At this point, we continue to review each bus stop request that we have received, whether that came to us on an official Bus Stop Review Form or in details provided through numerous email requests. Those reviews include a look at the stop in the context of the entire route in our software program, Transfinder, and if necessary, additional reviews of the site using Google Maps, and, when necessary, physically traveling to the bus stop in question to assess it personally on site. We are changing any stop which, based on our review, is deemed to be unsafe by either our Transportation Director, Kurt Wickham or our Assistant Superintendent for Business, Mike Pacella. They rely on their extensive experience, state guidance, and common sense. They take into consideration things like speed limits, traffic patterns and sightlines for traffic approaching from both directions of the assigned stop. They are maintaining any assigned stop that they determine to be appropriate. That means that some parents who have previously enjoyed driveway pickups may have to adjust to a new group bus stop.
Mr. Pacella and Mr. Wickham have committed their attention to this task daily, often working well into the night. Mr. Wickham spent a good portion of his Labor Day weekend completing reviews. Our goal was to complete all requested reviews by this Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. Once a determination has been made, either Mr. Wickham or Mr. Pacella communicates that decision to the family via phone or email.
Now, however, because of the numerous additional bus concerns that have been brought to our attention since the beginning of the school year, it may be difficult for us to make that Friday target. We will continue our diligent review of all concerns until all are resolved, which we now believe will occur over the course of the next few days. We ask for the public’s patience as we give each request the attention it deserves.
Despite many claims to the contrary, safety remains one of our highest priorities here in Pine Bush. We expend considerable resources to help protect our students and our staff. We routinely weigh safety considerations in our decision making as well. We will work to address all of the concerns brought to our attention, and we will continue to work with our transportation partner, Birnie Bus, towards the common goal of getting your children safely to and from school.