Parents of local students who attend the Trumbull Regional Vocational Agriculture program packed last week’s school board meeting asking for additional bus stops. Officials this week, however, said there probably isn’t going to be any change to the bus schedule.
Parents and students told board members that students have to walk up to two miles to get to their bus stops. In some cases, students are walking on streets without sidewalks, and some have to be at their stop by 6 a.m. to catch the bus.
Bus pickups changed this year because the Board of Education instructed administrators last year to cut $200,000 from transportation costs to reach a budget goal.
But parents and students say it’s created a hardship.
Dave Dipasquale said he thinks the program was singled out to absorb budget cuts.
His daughter has to walk more than two miles to get to a bus stop at the Wheelers Farms Road fire station.
“If we had sidewalks and were within two miles, I wouldn’t be complaining,” Dipasquale said. “I just don’t think it’s fair. You’re jeopardizing people’s safety.”
Student Kellie Courville said last year the bus picked her up much closer to her house, and this year she needs to cross the busy Boston Post Road and an I-95 intersection to reach her bus stop.
“I’m asking for a couple more bus stops,” she said. “As of the ninth day of school, I had five different people pick me up.”
Kellie said she has to walk 45 minutes to her bus stop, and she thinks the reduction in bus stops will discourage people from attending the agri-science program.
Alex Simone doesn’t have to walk far to get to Foran High School, where a bus picks her up for the agri-science program, but she has to be there at 6 a.m. Last year she got picked up at 6:30. She doesn’t get home until 3:45 p.m. because of the hour and 25 minute bus ride, and it’s a long day.
“I’m so in love with this school,” she said, adding that she’s willing to sacrifice to attend. She wishes the sacrifices were a little less time-consuming.
Board Chairman Tracy Casey (D) asked administrators to look into adding stops along the route, but she feared that would make the ride even longer for students.
Casey pointed out that Milford transports students to several out-of-town programs from their schools. Students who go to the Educational Center for the Arts in New Haven, for example, get a ride back to Law or Foran at the end of the day, but then it is up to them and their families to find a ride home.
She said 23 students attended the Trumbull agri-science program last year, and the city paid for two buses at about $40,000 each to transport them. Technically, she added, Milford students who attend the program are part of the Trumbull education system.
Those numbers indicate Milford paid $3,524 per student to get to school, compared to $380 paid to get each Milford bus student to school in Milford.
“So we told administration to look at busing costs,” Casey said.
Officials decided to cut one bus, and she said the resulting bus stops were not necessarily designed to be stops that students walk to.
If all the parents agreed to pay for a second bus, she said she would look into the legalities of letting them pay for one.
Casey also noted that administrators, responding to concerns, found a way to keep Foran and Law open later in the day so the students have a place to go. The bus will drop them off at either high school after the agri-science program, and they can stay there until someone picks them up.
“That’s a potential solution,” Casey said.
Director of Operations James Richetelli Jr. said many bus stops were impacted by the budget cut.
“Because of the size of the reduction (roughly 10% of total regular transportation budget), we have had to look at, literally, every single bus run including public schools at all levels, the parochial schools, and Platt Tech,” he said. “We have eliminated runs, consolidated runs and altered runs. What this means, in general, is that there are more students on some buses and some students have longer times on buses – some significantly longer.”
He said it wouldn’t make sense to add stops to the school bus that takes students to Trumbull because, in some cases, students would have to be at their bus stop before 6 a.m.