Depending on which school busing option the School Committee adopts, transportation fees could remain the same as this year or increase by as much as $100, and not all students wanting to be transported is guaranteed a spot. The decision will be made with the help of college students participating in a “hack-a-thon.”
The School Committee received an update on planning for busing during the 2018-19 school year on Monday night. Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Mary DeLai said the district will enter a five year bus contract if the Town Council gives its approval Tuesday night, but the schedule will change from the current year because the high school and middle school are starting later next fall.
Three options will be considered, DeLai said, with different numbers of buses and possibly requiring students to wait after school for the bus to arrive after school. Some may increase the bus fee, which is currently $300. DeLai said that depending on the option, it is possible not all students will be able to ride the bus.
In Option 1, there would be four buses in the morning and afternoon, two for Hosmer Elementary School and two for Watertown Middle School. This would increase the cost of busing by about $20,000 and would raise the individual fee.
“Eighty-five dollars to $100 is a reasonable estimate of what the increase would look like for Option 1,” DeLai said. “For Option 2, we do not believe there will be an impact (financially).”
Option 2 would have four buses in the morning (two for each school) and two in the afternoon, each of which would make two runs. The Hosmer run would be at 2:30 p.m. and the middle school run would be at 3:15 p.m.
“Students at the middle school would be held after school requiring adult supervision for the brief period between dismissal and pick up,” DeLai said, who added that while there would be an expense to pay for adults to supervise the students waiting for the buses to arrive, the overall cost would be $10,000 less than budgeted.
The third option includes three buses which would serve both Hosmer and the middle school. They would drop off the elementary school students at 8:05 a.m. and continue on to the middle school for an 8:20 drop off time. In the afternoon, a similar model would be used, with pickup at Hosmer at 2:45 p.m. and at the middle school at 3 p.m. In this option Hosmer students would have to wait about 15 minutes after school to be picked up, and would require adult supervision. Like Option 2, that would be paid for by an estimated $10,000 savings in busing costs.
The options will be examined by a group of graduate students from Northeastern University.
“We have a parent who works in Northeastern’s experiential learning program and the students will engage in a hack-a-thon,” DeLai said. “It’s possible to have our students help.”
They will look to find the most efficient way to transport the most students with in the most cost effective way. The hack-a-thon is scheduled for June 12.
Families will be asked to pre-register for the bus, DeLai said.
School Committee member Kendra Foley asked when parents and students will get information about the buses. DeLai said it will be made clear that spaces are not guaranteed and the fees might be going up.
“If a fee increase is needed we will notify families in late June, early July,” DeLai said.