Letter: Busing issue in Barrington raises plenty of questions

Posted 9/29/21

To the editor:

A week before school started this year, many parents discovered that their children, who were previously entitled to bus transportation, would no longer qualify. The lack of …

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Letter: Busing issue in Barrington raises plenty of questions

Posted

To the editor:

A week before school started this year, many parents discovered that their children, who were previously entitled to bus transportation, would no longer qualify. The lack of transparency on behalf of Superintendent Michael Messore and the School Committee is astounding.

Barrington parents understand last year’s pandemic posed unprecedented problems for schools. We didn’t  think Mr. Messore would use it to deny needed transportation.

In an August 2020 meeting over Zoom, Mr. Messore dictated changes to the transportation policy to school committee members who unquestioningly made the edits. These changes facilitate his current claim that he is “following the policy” by “enforcing” the 2-mile limit (Barrington has the highest mileage requirement for middle school students in the state). He fails to acknowledge that it is not just the mileage from the school, but the safety of our routes that is concerning. Many busy roads are inadequately side-walked and lack crossing guards. Last year at least two students were struck by cars while commuting to school.

The new policy is non-inclusive to families without the means to have a stay-at-home parent, access to a car or the ability to hire someone to transport their child to school and back. There is no after-school childcare on site. Messore is also ignoring the needs of children with medical or psychiatric issues for whom the walk to school is more difficult.

Without access to lockers, students are traveling long distances on busy streets without sidewalks, weighted down by heavy backpacks. Soon they will be doing so in a New England winter.

Last month, parents were told that BPS is transitioning back to pre-COVID bus schedules and full capacity. Parents of students who were denied transportation based on distance were encouraged to submit a “Bus Stop Safety Request Form” for a safety review of their route. Many of these requests were rejected again, solely based on distance. 

Mr. Messore wrote that he was working with police to determine the safety of the routes. According to one parent, the police chief indicated he was not consulted. 

Mr. Messore also stated that the bus routes would not be posted in the Barrington Times. Parents’ requests for this information have gone unanswered. Bus routes are public in every district except Barrington.

Mr. Messore now blames the bus driver shortage. However, the policy changes were put in place last summer, long before the driver shortage became an issue.  

A 2016 EastBayRI article reported that a copy of the school bus routes eliminated stops for students living within two miles of the middle school. Parents spoke up, and within days a second version containing the prior bus stops was released. 

“Some of the bus routes have stops under the two-mile range, but we kept the stops because of safety concerns," said Mr. Messore. 

"The last thing we want to do is create more anxiety for students and parents," Mr. Messore said.

Those were his 2016 words. What has changed?

Rachelle Zani

Barrington

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