Recently First Selectman Peter Tesei followed up on a question from a caller during his radio show regarding an over capacity school bus in the Weaver / St Moshier Street area.
The caller’s child had said that students were sitting on the bus floor.
Tesei reached out to Greenwich Schools transportation manager Vicki Gregg who reviewed the bus video and said at no time were any students on the floor, and that she had spoken to the district’s bus company, STA, short for Student Transportation of America, and asked them to remind all their drivers that at no time should anyone be seated on the floor.
“What I learned is that there are video cameras on all the buses, which I was not aware of,” Tesei said. “That’s comforting to know they can go back and see specifically what’s taking place on the bus from a safety point of view. You’ll always have issues of behavior on the bus.”
Indeed, not only are there video cameras on all the buses, but according to Ms. Gregg, STA has a staff member who checks the cameras daily to make sure they are all functioning. In addition, but all the buses have seat belts, and GPS devices so they can be tracked at Havemeyer.
“I won’t even begin to tell you the experiences I had in junior high school when I began taking a bus and what the kids were doing to the bus Driving from Pemberwick through Glenville to Western Middle School,” Tesei recalled. “It was quite an eye opening and character building experience – to be resilient and keep your head down and don’t say anything.”
None of this is to say there haven’t been issues with school buses since the district changed its start times in 2017, but the district says they have been resolved.
Ridership increased significantly with the change in start times. There was overcrowding and buses were late as drivers became accustom to new routes and found themselves driving during rush hour rather than ahead of it.
Reached via Communications director Kim Eves, transportation director Ms. Gregg said that there were overcrowded buses, but that corrective measures have been taken, including checking student IDs and in one case substituting a 72-passenger bus with an 84-passenger bus.
She said students are not allowed to sit on the floor of the buses.
Also, Ms. Gregg said buses were increased by 12 after the new school start time was implemented.
As for students on the floor, she said, “I spoke with STA management to remind them – and to have them remind the drivers – that at no time should any students be sitting on the floor.”
Also, Ms. Gregg said, “Student behavior was addressed by schools – such as putting backpacks on the floor or lap, asking a fellow student to move over on seat (some students were taking a whole seat), a group of students that all want to sit together will ‘crowd’ to the back of the bus and some will just sit on the floor because they want to sit by their friends.”
As recently as October the school union president Carol Sutton complained to the BOE that school buses were arriving so late at Greenwich High School that students had to choose between being late to class or eating breakfast.
“Each and every day about one third of the GHS buses are late,” she said. “Kids are on those buses who are entitled to Free and Reduced Lunch and they have to choose whether to be on time or get food. And that includes PSAT day when 13 buses were late and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and there were no seniors on the road because they got to come in late.”
As for the buses being late, Ms. Gregg said it has been resolved and that buses that were consistently late have been adjusted and parents have been contacted with any changes.