LONDONDERRY — With Londonderry’s student population continuing to decline, a reduction in buses this year has forced district officials to make some immediate changes to some of the traditional routes.
Six years ago, the Londonderry School District employed a fleet of 37 buses, according to District Business Administrator Peter Curro.
This year there are 31 buses carrying the district’s elementary, middle and high school students each school day.
“We’ve been asking the kids to walk a little bit farther to get to their stops — especially the middle and high school kids,” Curro said on Tuesday.
With an additional bus having to be removed this year due to budget cuts, Curro said plans to continue that trend with some of the district’s younger students “needed to be accelerated.”
“During the budget process, we warned the school board that if that happened, we’d no longer be able to serve all the cul-de-sacs,” he said. “Because all of our buses do three runs each day, this was necessary to make sure everyone is getting to their respective schools on time.”
In keeping with the district’s administrative policy, elementary school children cannot be forced to walk more than 3/10 of a mile to reach their bus stop.
Curro said most of the children’s walking distances are “about 2/10 of a mile.”
“This is happening mainly on cul-de-sacs, so you won’t see a first grader walking 2/10 of a mile on a busy road,” he said. “Traffic and speed isn’t really an issue on the cul-de-sacs.”
Still, he admitted many parents have expressed concerns — Curro said he’s received “about 50 complaints” from parents unhappy about the new bus routes.
“It is a significant change,” he said. “But we can make individual exceptions when they’re warranted.”
David Fletcher said he’s lived at his Darrow Way home for more than 14 years, and he’d never given the bus routes much thought until the past several weeks.
“It was always assumed that things would stay the same,” Fletcher said on Tuesday.
But when the district released its bus schedule earlier this month, Fletcher said he was shocked to learn that the school bus would no longer be driving down his cul-de-sac this year, meaning his six-year-old daughter Amy, an incoming first grader at Matthew Thornton Elementary School, had to walk about a tenth of a mile to meet her bus at the end of her street on her first day of school Tuesday.
“This is a huge concern because I can’t see her from my window anymore,” he said. “There are no sidewalks on my street and come wintertime, there’s the plows to think about. There’s that lack of visibility.”
Tim Yerian Sr. said he was likewise shocked when he learned his son, a second grader, has to walk to the end of his cul-de-sac.
Yerian said he’s worried because the updated bus routes mean his son will now have to walk out onto the corner of nearby Otterson Street — an area described as being busy with traffic.
“We’ve had a couple of close calls there already over the years,” he said. “I just don’t see what difference a couple of houses makes. Our tax dollars are paying for these buses.”