May 24, 2018
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RSU 4’s busing on first day of school ‘a disaster’

By Bonnie Washuk, Sun Journal

WALES, Maine — Peter Faucher’s 7-year-old son, Mason, should have gotten off the bus around 3:45 p.m. Tuesday.

Mason didn’t get to his Wales home until 5:45.

Like other Sabattus, Wales and Litchfield parents, Faucher waited and worried. The worrying grew the later it got. Faucher called Libby Tozier Elementary School in Litchfield more than once.

“I knew they had delays because of road closures,” he said, “but 2½ hours?”

Tuesday was a bad bus day for RSU 4.

Because of Tropical Storm Irene, the first day of school — scheduled for Monday — was canceled because most buildings didn’t have electricity.

The power came on late Monday; the first day of school was rescheduled for Tuesday. And busing was “a disaster,” Superintendent Jim Hodgkin said. “Almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong.”

Many students didn’t get home from school until 6 p.m.

Two big problems caused the delays.

“We had 17 roads closed between the three towns,” Hodgkin said. “There were a lot of detours.”

Bus drivers had to keep turning around to find passable routes.

In the morning, parents on closed roads waited for buses to pick up their children. Drivers couldn’t pick up kids who lived on closed roads, Hodgkin said. “Parents are angry because we didn’t pick the kids up.”

At the end of the day, parents waited for their children to come home and got upset because their kids were on buses for so long and parents weren’t notified, Hodgkin said.

That was the second problem.

“I wish we’d used the automated message system,” the superintendent said. “It’s a new system. We were having issues with that, too.”

Hodgkin said the new system was being improved.

On Wednesday, busing was better, but drivers began routes early in case of closed roads and some parents were confused about what time school started. School starts an hour later on Wednesdays, allowing time for teacher training. Some students showed up too early and had to wait.

Hodgkin said he was hoping for smoother days.

“Wednesday was better than Tuesday,” he said. “Hopefully, Thursday will be better than Wednesday, and Friday will be better than Thursday.”

Faucher said Mason didn’t take the bus home Wednesday. “I went and got him,” the father said.

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