The South Orange-Maplewood School District announced tonight that “every day, the District’s Transportation Department is adding 8 to 12 students in grades pre-K to 5 to its bus routes as more families apply for transportation.”
The announcement came at the beginning of the district’s School Safety & Security Forum, with Supt. Dr. Ronald Taylor offering an explanation for the issues of lateness, missed pickups and other problems that have plagued the expansion of the district’s elementary school busing since the start of the 2023-24 school year.
Taylor offered the following remarks before showing a series of slides illustrating that the number of routes for pre-K-through grade 5 had grown 26% from last year and the number of pre-K-5 students on buses had increased by 52%:
[Note: Taylor’s statement at the forum differs slightly from the version sent out by the district’s communications director later in the evening. The following transcription is from Village Green’s recording of the announcement.]
“Since classes began on September 7th, the District’s Transportation Department and Business office have been fulfilling the community’s vision for an expanded bus program that was approved and funded by the Board of School Estimate,” said Taylor.
“This increase in services is significant. On a daily basis, our bus services get much more right than they get wrong.
“That isn’t much comfort when you are one of the families whose children are on one of the few routes that are not being served as they should be. We, the District administrative team and I, have received families’ concerns, and they have not fallen on deaf ears. While we are thrilled to have increased transportation services for hundreds more students, we understand the deep imposition it puts on a family when there is difficulty starting the day.
“We, as humans, are all facing challenges in our daily lives, and it only makes things more difficult for parents and guardians when their child enters their school building well after the school day has begun, or worse, filling them with angst worrying about their child’s whereabouts.
“No family should have to go through that. And No one in the District finds it acceptable, and we are doing everything we can to solve these problems as soon as possible and have heard from those who experienced challenges that improvements have come quickly in these first 10 days of school. Please know that more improvements are soon to come.”