GCS switching to one-tier bus system

S chool may be out for summer but the head of transportation for the Granville Central School District has had plenty of homework.
John Steves has been trying to hammer out the logistics of changing from a two-tier bus system to a single-tier system.
In May, officials proposed eliminating the two-tier bus system and replacing it with a single-tier system. The goal of the one-tier transportation system is to have all the students from all three schools on the buses at the same time. Previously, the district would transport high school students and then return to the same routes to pick up elementary school students.
The district included the proposal, in the form of a $355,000 proposition to purchase two 65-passenger buses and a van, as part of May’s budget vote. Voters approved the proposition by a margin of 260 to 135.
But some parents have been caught off guard by the news and the district has begun reaching out to families in the district to make sure everyone is aware of the changes.
“We’ve had people ask, ‘is this something you’re really doing?” Somich, said. “Yes this is something we are doing.”
Last week officials began contacting families of students who are picked up at one location and dropped off at an alternate location. And the district was going to send a letter to all the families in the district this week informing them of the change and some of the details. A second letter will be sent to families next month, a few weeks before school resumes.
Steves, who has been plotting out new routes, said officials need parents’ help to facilitate the transition.
“It makes my job, the drivers’ job and the school’s job much easier if parents let us know. If Suzie needs to get dropped off somewhere other than where she got on the bus, parents need to let us know. We need some help,” Steves said.
Steves said the new single-tier system will require 14 bus routes; the old system required seven for the “high school run” and nine for the “elementary run.”
“We’re planning routes to fit as many students as we can. There won’t be half empty buses,” Steves said.
Many of the traditional bus routes that local residents have grown accustomed to will be different.
“There are going to be buses on different roads and there’s going to be a change in the traffic flow in the village,” Steves said. “People are going to see some changes.”
The biggest change will be the school day for students at the elementary level. While the school day at the high school will remain unchanged (7:53 start time, 2:24 dismissal), students at the Elementary School and at Mary J. Tanner will begin and end their day an hour earlier. The school day will begin at 8:05 a.m. at the Elementary School and dismissal will be at 2:35 p.m. At Mary J. Tanner, the school day will begin at 8:15 a.m. and dismissal will be at 2:45 p.m.
“The length of the day is the same, it’s just moved up,” Somich said.
Steves said the longest route shouldn’t exceed an hour and 10 minutes and officials will leave enough time during the morning run for students to have access to school breakfast.
Commuters traveling through the village on their way to work in the morning will also see a change in flow of traffic within the village.
Steves said buses will drop off students at the high school and will turn left onto Potter Avenue as they exit the school, then right onto Quaker Street and then a quick left onto Williams Street and then left onto Irving.
He said he has spoke with the village about the changes and they are coordinating with Granville Police how to control traffic between Potter Avenue and Williams Street.
The other significant change will affect students who are dropped off and picked up at the school, particularly the Elementary School.
Steves said parents will be asked to drop off their students in a different location because the curb where students have been dropped off at in the past will be occupied by additional buses.
He said that portion of the parking lot will effectively be closed in the morning and afternoon and parents dropping off their students will be directed to a different part of the parking lot where faculty will help guide students to and from the school.
“The staff will have radios and will be able to communicate directly with the buses,” Steves said.
A major concern among parents, especially those of younger students, has been their child’s exposure to high school students, but Steves said the district is taking steps to alleviate those concerns.
He said the buses will essentially be split into two sections, one of high school students at the rear of the bus, and one for elementary students at the front of the bus. There may even be assigned seating. He said high school students will be placed near emergency exits to help younger children during fire drills or an actual emergency.
Officials hope the change will result in a cost savings for the district. He said each bus should actually put on fewer miles per day which will reduce fuel costs and wear and tear.
“With the same buses out there twice a day and declining enrollment, it makes sense,” Cathy Somich, business manager said.
Steves said that Hoosic Valley and Corinth, similarly size districts use a single-tier system and he has spoke with officials in other districts about implementing the new system.
“We’re right in line with number of buses and students,” he said.
Officials said parents will receive a letter in mid-August letting them know of the bus their children will ride, pick-up and drop times and their assigned seat.




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