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October 23, 2013

Late special-needs bus forces schools to add extra route

Bus will cost Methuen $44,700 for rest of school year

METHUEN — “Ongoing concerns” over tardy special needs students at Marsh Grammar School prompted the School Department to hire another bus at a cost of $300 per day.

The new bus started last Thursday, adding $44,700 to the school transportation budget for the year. A full-180 day school year with the extra bus would have cost $54,000. It will transport only intensive needs students, Superintendent Judith Scannell said.

“In order to address ongoing concerns regarding special education transportation at the Marsh, I have formally requested an additional vehicle to support the special education routes at the Marsh,” Gina Bozek, the School Department’s director of special education, wrote in an Oct. 1 memo to Scannell.

Bozek and Marsh staffers tried adjusting the route of the bus, which transports students from all around the city to each of the four grammar schools, to get the students in on time, but made only limited progress.

“The Marsh Grammar School staff provided me daily updates regarding morning arrival times,” Bozek wrote. “Our last attempt was made on Thursday, September 26th and as of (Oct. 1), the upper school arrival times did improve; however, the lower school arrival times did not. Therefore, an additional vehicle is required.”

Scannell said that because the special needs bus is districtwide, students can arrive at some grammar schools on time, but the bus could be behind schedule by the time it gets to Marsh.

“What happens at the beginning of the year, especially with small buses, it takes a couple of runs to figure out the best route to pick kids up, get kids to school on time,” Scannell said. “If I ask for a backup, I need to make sure I have all my ducks in order.”

Scannell said parents have been contacted to explain to them the changes.

When asked if the buses were 20 to 30 minutes late, she said, “I don’t believe so.”

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