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Parents of private school pupils in Newport will likely have to wait until October for the School Committee to address concerns about busing policies that now have some private school pupils spending more than two and a half hours a day on the school bus.
Additionally, some pupils are walking to new drop-off points (depots), crossing busy streets and in some cases walking nearly a mile to those stops.
School Superintendent Colleen Burns Jermain reportedly asked for patience from parents, as school officials review the policy. She also promised to seek a reversal of a provision that would have only provided bussing for private schools when public schools are in session.
The issues arose, according to Candice Sandman, parent of a seven-year-old St. Philomena pupil, when the School Committee voted in August to combine St. Philomena and Pennfield bussing.
Pennfield School’s day starts at 8, while St. Philomena’s day begins at 9, causing St. Philomena pupils to “be on a bus two hours before school,” Sandman said.
She said there are 55 youngsters who attend St. Philomena, enough, she said, for St. Philomena to have its own bus.
“Last year we had a bus and individual stops that were a safe distance for children to travel that were inside the state rules,” Sandman said.
The motivation for the change, Sandman said, and school officials indicated, was cost. “Cost is driving everything at the risk of children safety and well-being,” Sandman said.
Asked what she would see as a solution, Sandman said that “in the ideal world we get our own bus with normal stops that are a safe distance.
“If we don’t get that we need stops or more depots,” Sandman said. “We get to change the locations of the depots to where children live – there is currently only one family in walking distance of a stop. Also, the afternoon needs to change. Ninety minutes on a bus is not ok.
“Lastly when bus routes are made, public or private, the routes need to be checked for sidewalks and proper crosswalks, none of which were taken into account.”
The amount of time children spend on school buses has been an issue nationwide. While most states do not have limitations, some states urge districts to keep the one-way bus ride to less than an hour.