TURNER — School Administrative District 52 is reorganizing its bus schedule for next week to work around a shortage of six full-time drivers.
Board of Directors Chairwoman Betsy Bullard said the board heard from Dan Labrie, the district’s new transportation and facilities director, at Thursday night’s regular meeting with an update on the first week of school and on plans to cope with a driver shortage.
The new route changes coming Monday will be on top of already-tweaked routes that started this week in an effort to cut down on the annual number of miles logged by district transportation.
The district includes Greene, Leeds and Turner.
“We traveled just under 500,000 miles this last year,” Bullard said. “That’s a lot of wear and tear and gas and no shortage of cost on all those things.”
Labrie’s goal is to reduce that by 5 percent. He spent the summer working with staff to come up with some new runs to get those miles down, she said.
During the first week of school, it took “all hands on deck” to make that work, she said, with staff driving who don’t typically have routes.
“The plan that’s being worked on right now, in order to cover everything and get everybody safely to school and back, will include combining some runs as of this next week so there will be further changes this next week,” she said. “Moving forward with that kind of shortage, we have to regroup a little bit and figure out how to deal with it.”
The district has two bus schedules — grades prekindergarten to six and grades seven to 12 — that have different school start times. Runs that aren’t as full, but are geographically close to each other may be combined, she said, but runs with the younger grades will not be combined with runs for the older grades.
“Change is always challenging,” Bullard said. “(It’s) always an opportunity to communicate and communicate some more. This has been developing over the last couple days, my understanding last evening is that it was not 100 percent finalized last evening. This is something that will need to be communicated quickly.”
She anticipated the district might use its robocall system to call homes.
“Folks certainly will be notified,” Bullard said. “Nobody likes a surprise on Monday morning.”
Also at Thursday night’s meeting:
• The board heard from one parent that middle school soccer hadn’t yet started due to a lack of a coach. “We’re fortunate in that we have many willing volunteers; sometimes the logistics of getting things put together is challenging,” Bullard said. “There were solutions last evening to get things up and rolling so everyone’s in a position to get started.”
• The annual Patience Norman Award committee is looking for nominations from the community and school staff. The award, funded by an anonymous donor, recognizes an outstanding educator each year with $5,000 before Christmas break.
• The board received a first-week-of-school update. Middle school enrollment is up 15 students, Turner Elementary School is up 27 and the high school is also up as well.
“I think we’re pretty lucky that we have a team that’s enthusiastic and ready to go,” Bullard said.