KYSERIKE – After presenting the Rondout Valley Education Foundation’s Annual Report on November 28, the Rondout Valley School Board meeting moved right into the area’s testy problems with school busing.
Transportation Advisory Services’ (TAS) Louis Boffardi made a lengthy presentation. Boffardi described how his company would fully assess and analyze the transportation needs, resources and geography of the 150-square mile district. TAS would then call for contracts, evaluate each contract application, and then forward them to the district to make its choice.
The board approved the contract for Transportation Consultation Services with TAS for a sum not to exceed $11,500. It was expected that the TAS report will be delivered by mid-February, 2018.
This decision came before the public comment section, where parent Lorissa Demorest-Beatty said that while she was happy things were moving ahead with planning next year’s busing system, she was more concerned with the failures and dangers of this year’s service.
"Every morning," she said, "you hear on social media that the bus is ten minutes late, the bus is twenty minutes late … It’s getting worse. The bus drivers are highly frustrated. They’re angry. They’re underpaid with no benefits, they’re strangers to the area, and they’re all searching for new jobs. You just never know who’s going to pull up. Or if anyone is going to pull up at all. The buses are getting home after 4:30," she continued, "and the kids are getting off in the dark. They’re doubled up, three or four to a seat."
She noted that buses are being rescheduled at the school at 3:30 in the afternoon. "It’s scary for the kids," she said. "‘Where am I going?’ the kids are asking. ‘Why am I on this bus?’ ‘Who are these people?’ ‘How am I supposed to get home?’"
"It’s great about next year," Demorest-Beatty said, "but we have to focus on the next seven months. Our roads are not like everyone else’s. They’re not all Route 209, and last year the roads were frequently not cleared of snow. And the roads, cleared or uncleared, are all new to the drivers imported from New Paltz."
Another member of the public noted that as some buses were arriving at school late, just as classes were starting, some students are missing out on school breakfasts. It was noted that while the dining tables are closed as classes begin, breakfasts are still being provided to the late students even if they have to eat while walking to class.
The board discussed the busing problems and decided to invite representatives of the contractor, the Mulligan Bus Company of Tillson, to the next board meeting to discover why the company isn’t keeping its contract commitments, along with other problems, and to discuss what is being done to alleviate them.
The district’s Director of Technology, Angelo Urrico, made a presentation on the school district’s Technology Initiative.
He noted that pupils in grades K through 4 accessed computers in their classrooms while higher grade pupils are individually provided with computers, currently iPads. Pupils keep the computers for the school year and take them where ever they want. The computers are locked so that students can’t add applications although they can access WiFi outside the school system.
This "takeaway" computer system differs from some other schools where computers are provided in classrooms. Students, said Urrico, have adapted well to the district’s extensive technology. The most prominent student troubles and comments emerged, he noted, when expected technology was down or unavailable.
The district’s networks, equipment, systems, software, and security services are being updated progressively and regularly, largely with funds from the Rondout allocation of $2,004,951 from the Smart Schools Bond Act.
The Smart Schools Bond Act was passed and approved by New York State voters in a referendum held during the 2014 general election, and authorized the issuance of $2 billion of general obligation bonds to finance improved educational technology and infrastructure, to improve learning and opportunity for New York State students.
The board then approved $170,830 from the Smart Schools Bond to upgrade the high school’s security camera system.