Boston Public School (BPS) Superintendent Carol Johnson discussed plans to improve busing schedules this school year that include addressing a street closure in Jamaica Plain during a roundtable interview with reporters last week.
BPS’s new transportation director, Carl Allen, a JP resident, and Johnson have been hard at work on getting bus schedules timed so that kids get to school on time this school year.
Last year, up to 25 percent of the 700 BPS school buses were arriving late to schools.
“We’ve been working really hard since last spring” to get the buses running on schedule, Allen said.
He and Johnson sat in on several dry-runs two weeks ago—all of the buses involved were either early or on time.
BPS has worked very hard to “build more intelligence” into the bus route planning process, Allen said.
BPS added an extra 10 percent of trip time to bus routes to get kids to school at least 15 minutes before the first bell, to ensure they will have a chance to have breakfast and won’t miss any instructional time.
Allen also addressed neighborhood concerns over the blocking of Carolina Avenue to accommodate buses servicing the Mission Hill K-8 in the former Agassiz building at 20 Child St.
Despite the fact that the Mission Hill School is serviced by 14 buses in the morning and 10 in the afternoon, Allen said he didn’t expect any major problems.
“I think it’ll be pretty smooth,” he said. BPS and bus contractor representatives would be on site for the first few weeks of the school year and BPS will also evaluate how well the arrangement is working after a month or so, he said.
The Gazette visited the Agassiz building during morning drop-off on Sept. 6, and witnessed short buses arriving one at a time and quickly unloading the few kids in each bus. BPS representatives were on site and traffic did not seem to be backing up. At least one bus driver stopped on Child Street and asked people there where to go.
Child Street had previously been the bus stop for the Agassiz building. Now that there are two schools in one building, however, BPS decided to separate their entrances, with the K-8 using Carolina Avenue Street and the new Muñiz Academy using Child Street.
Other concerns include coordinating afternoon stops. Many students are dropped off at a different place from where they are picked up, like a grandparent’s home or daycare.
Arranging for the separate routes has been a challenge that Allen and Johnson are tackling early this year.
“It has to be a customized service” for each child, Johnson said.
But BPS is “well ahead” of last year in arranging these stops, Allen said.
Other improvements to busing include new leadership in the bus drivers’ union, coordination with the Mayor’s Hotline and the creation of a principals’ hotline to report problems directly to Allen. The Mayor’s Hotline can be reached at 617-365-4500 or at cityofboston.gov/mayor/24.
BPS will continue to work with Boston Police and the schools to continue to improve busing schedules throughout the year, Allen said.
John Ruch contributed to this article.