BOCES reviews busing glitches

JOHNSTOWN – The Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services, which has taken over bus service for the Greater Johnstown School District, is working to address officials’ concerns, the head of BOCES said Thursday.

BOCES Superintendent Patrick Michel and BOCES transportation officials Terry Kersting and Chris Olson attended Thursday’s Johnstown Board of Education meeting to give a progress report on the transportation takeover, which began last school year.

Last year, BOCES handled bus maintenance for Johnstown. This year, BOCES is handling the drivers and adminstration of routes.

The Johnstown district still owns the buses and shares a bus garage with the Gloversville Enlarged School District in Gloversville.

BOCES is running the bus service for Gloversville schools as well.

Michel said Superintendent Robert DeLilli told him about some concerns.

“One of the things we strived for this school year was to be as organized as possible,” Michel said.

Michel said the Johnstown bus runs have started this school year with no one left on the buses or taken to the wrong places.

“We work very hard with our bus drivers to ensure kids are not dropped off unless there is a parent there,” he said.

Michel said BOCES was unaware Johnstown parents are used to a “tradition” of having letters sent home with detailed bus-route information before the start of the school year.

Olson told the board he was transportation director in Red Hook, Dutchess County, and that school district transported 3,000 children. He said their bus-route information was put online.

BOCES has not yet decided whether to put the information online or send home letters.

Michel said he has been impressed by the return time of about 4:30 p.m. for the buses this school year, as opposed to roughly 5:30 p.m. the last school year.

Michel also said there were concerns about delays at the start of the school year. He said this was because he told his staff the first day is a “big deal” for parents, especially for parents of new kindergartners. He said his message to drivers was “Give the parents time to say goodbye to their babies before they get on the bus.”

Michel said the transportation program also found “glitches” with the data bases. Because secretaries were off during the summer in elementary schools, he said, some transportation changes were not made.

Michel said another concern is the eventual transition to grade-level grouping Johnstown will be doing to start the 2014-15 school year.

“We’ve been practicing that already,” Michel said.

Kersting said BOCES may implement a “shuttle bus” system next school year, using Warren Street Elementary School as a “hub” for all three elementary schools.

Michel said two bus unions were combined, and the transportation program was able to eliminate two runs to Albany that had cost $128,000 apiece.

The Johnstown district may have to look at replacing some buses that have maintenance issues, Michel said.