By ERIN ROLL
A rough start to the school year for Montclair’s bus-riding students prompted the school district to issue an apology to parents for schedule mishaps and missed pick-ups, among other problems.
On Thursday, a letter was posted on the district website from Interim Superintendent Barbara Pinsak, offering her apologies to families.
“While I don’t believe in making excuses, I do think it necessary to explain that this summer we had a lot of transition with staffing in transportation and a change in service providers,” Pinsak wrote. “These changes created a ‘perfect storm,’ which individually would have had an impact, but collectively have resulted in our current situation. Clearly, this situation is unacceptable.”
In an email interview on Friday, Pinsak said, “Some [complaints] were regarding a stop change from last year’s stop. Some, received from schools and families, were missed pick-ups.
“There were a few concerns about length of time on the bus,” she said. “Often, the concerns were about not getting calls from our department of transportation so that an issue could be reported or that the department didn’t pick up a call.”
The Montclair school district has a subscription busing system. For each family, the fee is $400 for one student; $225 for a second child, and $100 for a third child. Fees must be paid at the beginning of the year.
According to the district website, families who qualify for free or reduced lunch are eligible for subscription busing at no cost.
Before the start of school on Sept. 7, parents complained via social media that the district did not release certain key information, such as bus stops and schedules, until only a few days before school was to begin.
“I would like to add my apologies to those expressed by the superintendent,” BOE President Laura Hertzog said on Friday. “I know that she and her team have already fixed many problems, and are working hard to remedy any ongoing concerns, and learn lessons for the future about what should be done differently. But I also know that lessons learned for the future cannot fully make up for the distress already experienced by some of our families. I am so very sorry for that distress, and I know that we must do better.”
Pinsak’s letter says that parents may contact Emidio D’Andrea, business administrator, about busing concerns that have not been addressed, after they have tried to speak to someone in the transportation department. That does not include requests to change a bus stop.
“Dissatisfaction with a stop does not constitute an emergency and cannot be a priority. We will certainly address those concerns, but at a later time,” the letter says.