EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

May 6, 2013

Busing woes cut in on class time

The $91M school spending proposal is up $4.4M over this year

HAVERHILL — A large number of public and private school students have been missing days worth of schooling every year, but not because they didn’t show up for classes.

School Superintendent James Scully said the district has been dismissing students 10 to 20 minutes early on a daily basis at several Haverhill schools to catch school buses home. Those numbers include local Catholic schools in which the city provides transportation. Scully could not provide an exact number, but estimated it could be as many as 7 to 9 percent of the district’s students, of which there about 7,000.

A student dismissed 10 minutes early every day would end up missing about 3 1/2 hours of class time per month over the nine-month school year. A student dismissed 20 minutes early would end up missing about seven hours of class time a month.

Scully said the practice of dismissing students early is to accommodate bus routes and is largely the result of the city’s large geographical size. He said it has been going on since he joined the Haverhill district seven years ago. Haverhill is one of the largest communities in the state with roughly 35 square miles. Lawrence, by comparison, is about seven square miles.

The district’s preliminary $90,638,215 budget for next year, unveiled by the superintendent at Thursday night’s School Committee meeting, includes $509,000 to redo bus routes and fix the problem. Overall, the spending proposal is up $4,367,852, or 5.06 percent, compared to this year.

Given the price tag, it doesn’t appear the bus route changes are going to be an easy sell, said Mayor James Fiorentini.

“The City Council and patrolmen’s union wants more police officers and the council wants money for improvements at Winnekenni and Riverside park, and just the other day I received a request from the Stadium Commission for more money for the stadium,” Fiorentini said while reviewing the school spending proposal for the first time at Thursday’s meeting.

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