Board promises buses are ready for new school year

Last year's troubled rollout was a concern to dozens of district parents

Courtesy of New Road Construction
The board of education’s transportation committee met on Aug. 23 to ensure what it called a “smooth” bus plan for the new year.

Deptford board of education members indicated at their Aug. 29 meeting that they are confident about the school bus situation heading into the new school year.

Board member and Transportation Committee Chairperson Jim McDevitt updated the situation during his report at the meeting.

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“We feel confident that we won’t run into the debacle that we ran into last year,” he said. “They (the bus drivers) seem to be on their toes and very enthusiastic.”

The “debacle” included issues with buses at the start of the 2022-’23 school year, including a shortage of drivers, overcrowding and kids being dropped off late. The district’s transportation department also indicated it had not received map routes until September.

“There are so many issues going on inside the transportation department that it’s just unreal,” former Deptford driver Melanie Jones said at the time.

That led to parents being unhappy with the district and anxious for their children’s safety.

“From what I’ve heard, it’s been a disaster,” claimed Wendy Szarkowski, a mother of three boys at Oak Valley Elementary who spoke out last year. “One of my son’s friends came home an hour after she was supposed to, and when the mom called, there was no answer at the transportation office.”

The result was a September 2022 meeting with about 60 to 70 parents voicing their concerns.

This year, according to McDevitt, the transportation committee met on Aug. 23 and discussed plans for a “smooth” rollout, among them recruiting bus drivers and making sure they are aware of their routes.

“We even began planning ways to recruit and train bus drivers,” McDevitt elaborated. “The drivers are on their practice runs, they know their routes, we got out all the information on bus passes to all the children, and we’re looking to transport 4,100 kids opening day.”

School starts Thursday, Sept. 7. The next board of ed meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 6:30 p.m. at the board facility behind Deptford Middle School.

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