BETHLEHEM Bethlehem Central school officials said this year’s plan to consolidate bus stops has gone smoother than previous attempts, but it is still too early to tell if the new system will last.
As part of the 2012-13 budget, the district created new centralized bus stops in order to reduce the number of bus routes. Middle school students can walk up to half a mile to reach their stops, while those in the high school can walk up to a full mile. The changes led to the reduction of 14 bus drivers and eight aids.
With the first three days of school past, Bethlehem Central spokesman Bill Devoe said it is tough to say if the plan will stay in place.
“This is an organic process based on feedback from the community,” he said. “Of course there are budgetary constraints that will affect what we do, but we think first and foremost of the safety of our students.”
A similar consolidation was instated in at the start of the 2010-11 school year, but a significant number of routes were added back after pushback from the community. At the time, Transportation Director Al Karam estimated the district received more than 1,000 emails and calls about the situation.
Karam said there have been significantly fewer complaints this year because parents were given more time to ask question and the department had nearly three months before school started to plan the routes.
The new system means the district is running 28 fewer routes than last year. Karam said some of those routes might be added back to address issues of overcrowding on several busses during the first week.
Some parents have complained about the location of several bus stops that are on roads with no sidewalks. On Wednesday, Sept. 5, two grandparents made their concerns known at the first school board meeting of the year.