Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 18 November 2011 00:00
A new school year and the closure of the Cross Street School created a new set of issues for Mineola School District Director of Transportation (DOT) Bill Gillberg, who was commended for his work before the beginning of the school year for what Superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler described as “really an overwhelming task to reroute the entire district.”
The job entailed reconstructing each bus route due to the movement of approximately 800 students around the district to different buildings.
Dr. Nagler said that there were a few hiccups with the new routes but “we always have hiccups the first week of school,” singling out the runs from the Willis Avenue School at the board of education’s (BOE) recent meeting. “Getting five year olds on the bus, all at dismissal time and getting those buses off on time takes a few days takes a few days to get accomplished.”
“Every route changed and every building looked different,” Nagler stated. “We always have issues with buses initially, particularly Willis Avenue [School]. This year was no different than last year.”
Willis Avenue School will be shutting its doors next school year. It was part of the reconfiguration process that has seen various district changes, including the fifth grade move to the middle school and eighth grade move to the high school.
There were also some route problems with how buses were getting to and leaving buildings, which the superintendent said were now fixed. Notifications were sent out to parents by Gillberg, about the changed routes to fix the problems, which presented themselves.
“He’s on top of it,” Nagler said of Gillberg. “He’s been at the forefront of this and has handled it excellently.”
The district also reported problems with the after school SCOPE bus dropping students off at Hampton from Meadow. “That’s been addressed at well,” Dr. Nagler said.
There were also reports of buses stopping at students’ homes, which the superintendent said may be a special education student and home drop-off may be required under requirements for that pupil’s educational plan. Nagler noted that that it is “unacceptable for whatever reason to stop at any house that is not mandated.”
Board vice-president William Hornberger inquired about reports of students being picked up first by their bus in morning, but being the last to be dropped off in afternoon, saying that “they had to take the longest ride again.”
“I can tell you personally that Billy [Gillberg] went out and followed buses and he didn’t see anything out of the ordinary,” Nagler stated.
Dr. Nagler’s response was that “there are occasions where it’s unavoidable because the bus needs to be somewhere immediately after the last drop off and to go backwards on that route doesn’t make sense.” The superintendent left the possibility open that the route would change “once the dust settles” from the reconfiguration and that the district would gain flexibility with its bus fleet next year with the closure of Willis Avenue.
“I appreciate everyone’s patience,” Nagler stated. “I appreciate everyone’s feedback. We’re not ignoring anything you bring to our attention, especially if it’s a problem, we’re going to try to fix it.”
Next year the district also plans to utilize its phone system to warn parents of lateness in buses arriving. Phone numbers are being grouped by bus route so that, “if there is an issue with a bus leaving late the principal can quickly make a phone call and every parent of a child on the bus will get an emergency call to let them know,” Dr. Nagler said.