Guilford bus delays have pupils in tizzy

Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

GUILFORD — A transportation issue involving the district’s middle schools and elementary schools has some students waiting in hallways for 20 minutes after school for their buses to arrive, and the solution could be lengthening the school day.

The large geographical area that buses have to cover — Guilford is one of the largest towns in land area in southern Connecticut — means the buses cannot pick up students at the middle schools, drop them at home and get back to the elementary schools in time. Superintendent of Schools Thomas Forcella said that elementary schools are released at 3:17, but the buses usually don’t arrive until around 3:30 or later.

That creates time when students have to wait to leave and teachers have to supervise them. Forcella said he would prefer to extend the school day so students spend about 15 more minutes in the classroom.

“We’re trying to alleviate the wait time for the elementary students,” he said. “They may have a half-an-hour ride on the bus, and if they’re sitting and waiting for the bus for 15 minutes, add that up, it’s 45 minutes that they’re waiting until they get home after school, and that’s a long time for a first-grader.”

Forcella, who outlined the problem and possible solutions for the Board of Education at its regular meeting Tuesday, said he will have to speak to the teachers’ union about the proposal, since it could impact the amount of time teachers spend in the classroom.

The schools had similar problems last year, but the situation seems to have worsened, Forcella said. That could be because the district had to add a first-grade class at Calvin Leete School after more students enrolled than expected, he said. In addition, the middle schools changed their schedule a few years ago, which may have affected the bus times.

“The bus company goes to the high school first, then the middle schools, then elementary schools, so it’s a domino effect,” he said. “If something gets stalled at any one of those levels, the elementary, being at the end of the line, ends up waiting.”

Board of Education Chairman Bill Bloss said he and the other members agreed with Forcella’s suggestion to look into lengthening the school day.

“We strongly hope to be able to find a more productive use of the time than having children just sitting in the hall, and I think everybody is really on the same page,” Bloss said.

He added that his 6-year-old daughters are students at Melissa Jones School, so he has experienced the problem first-hand.

“The question is how to address it without unreasonable additional expense and cooperatively to get to a sensible point,” he said. “I’m very hopeful that this is one of these situations where everyone agrees that the status quo doesn’t make sense and so given that, we ought to be able to find some reasonable alternative.”

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