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Transportation Department earns praise from School Committee

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  The school district’s new transportation team was commended by school administrators and school officials at last Tuesday night’s School Committee meeting as it laid out new initiatives to save money and improve communication with parents in the coming year.

  “The School Committee is well aware that we have struggled with transportation this year, and probably the greatest struggle was the first day of school, when our transportation director had to leave us,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dianne Kelly. “As we scrambled with COVID and masks and quarantine and vaccines and everything else that was going on in the moment, we turned to Dave Patch, who at the time had been serving as the assistant to the director, and to who was the administrative assistant in the Transportation Department.”

  After some adjustment, Patch and Sena were formally appointed as the leadership team for the Transportation Department.

  “I just can’t say enough about the great work that they have done,” said Kelly. “They really helped us through a very challenging period and kept things afloat. Since then, they’ve been looking at some previous transportation policies and have some suggestions we think are going to further the transportation program even more.”

  Sena said her goal is to streamline the Transportation Department and improve efficiencies. One of the ways the department can do that, she said, is going out to vendors to change the look of the district’s special education transportation fleet.

  Currently, the district has six vans and two small buses of its own for special education transportation. In addition, for the current year, the district used vendors to supply 16 vans and two small buses at an annual cost of $1.6 million. “What we want to do next year is still use our six vans and two small buses, but we are proposing to go out to vendors for eight small buses at a potential cost of $736,000,” said Sena. “Prices will vary, but you can see the difference in the cost.”

  Because of pandemic-related issues, Sena said, the district needed to lease the smaller vans, which can only transport five students – as opposed to 17 students – in the small buses, at the same price as the small buses this year. She said the small buses should be more readily available for the next school year. Sena said the district will be able to handle the transportation needs with the small buses as opposed to the vans.

  “Our priority is to continue to improve the scheduling and efficiency of the department and always accommodate any student who needs a ride with us,” said Sena.

  One way the department is looking to improve scheduling and communication with parents is by providing individualized bus schedules for single routes to parents, rather than using the current system that lists every bus route. Assistant Superintendent of Schools Richard Gallucci said the proposed schedules will include a map of the route, as well as approximate pickup times at each bus stop. “We just find something like this to be more appealing and much more accessible for all of our families,” said Gallucci.

  Several committee members praised the proposed bus route sheets. “I think it is a tremendous idea; it’s short and sweet and color coded, and, hopefully, we can implement it and make it work,” said School Committee Member Michael Ferrante. “Kudos to the people who came up with that.”

  Additionally, Sena said the Transportation Department has hired a bilingual administrative assistant who speaks Spanish and has already been able to help a number of families.

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