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Tomlinson Students Face Daily Hour-Plus Commutes

Parents, residents tell of the redistricting's effects on their children's bus rides to and from school.

The recent decision to who drop off and pick up their children at l elicited a wide range of reactions from Fairfield residents.

Some support the idea; many criticize it and the that began what they're calling a mess. But, the main question people are asking: Why are parents driving their kids to school, adding to bus loop congestion and facing a fine?

The answer, some say, lies in the extended routes buses now take, due to a combination of the redistricting plan, the that followed and – of course – budget cuts.

At the Sept. 13 , Superintendent of Schools David G. Title explained that the public schools are using less buses for more runs.

The number of buses has been reduced from 95 to 91, yet they are running 13 more loops than last year.

“Twenty-three buses run three loops,” Title said. “Last year, five buses ran three loops.”

And now the kids have to pay.

Resident Kate O’Gara has a sixth grader at Tomlinson who, though dismissed at 2:50 p.m., rarely gets home before 4 p.m. Her seventh grader, who attends , usually gets home at 3:30 p.m.

The Tomlinson bus expanded its route to include the newly redistricted and schools to “seemingly” avoid the cost of additional buses, O’Gara explained to Patch in an email.

Though she appreciates the savings as a taxpayer, she said, “I am not a fan of my daughter spending such a significant portion of her day on the bus.”

Resident Christine Sander added, “Not all children can handle hour-long transportation related commutes without severely impacting their overall well-being.”

Sander suggested in an email that rather than putting energy into fining parents, the town should consider hiring a “gifted town planner” who could move forward with new additions to infrastructure and the roads to dilute the traffic.

Title said at the Board of Education meeting that officials are “still sorting out the bussing issues.”

Board member Sue Brand suggested education officials look into which buses are emptier to see which areas parents are driving from.

Jim Eastwood September 26, 2011 at 04:02 PM
Good Morning Dear Fairfield Another Example of Fairfield Management or Lack there of. What would you do if we went back to the neighborhood school concept(Which we used to have Long time ago)?????? Two High schools (well we are Back to That !!!!!) Kids that walked to school (and were not OVERWEIGHT !!!) No Soccar Moms with their over sized SUV's People who took responsibility for their Lives and Never Blamed others ??? God Forbide we do all of this and came back to a Simpler life ?? Have a Great Day !!!
P.I. September 26, 2011 at 07:11 PM
One can only hope that there will be new faces on the BOE come Nov and that someone will propose a fix asap. All it takes is some common "cents".
Suzanne Spinelli September 26, 2011 at 07:34 PM
I had to walk to school. If I missed the bus I had to walk. So what. I was in far better shape than many of the chubby kids I see nowadays.
Suzanne Spinelli September 26, 2011 at 07:39 PM
Maybe if more moms felt the need to stay home with their kids, much of this stress would be avoided. Middle school kids are going to be stressed out anyway because that is the age where that happens, I don't think we can do much about it at this point anyhow. I think that having at least *one* sane person in the family when they get home or off the bus would help.
Suzanne Spinelli September 26, 2011 at 07:40 PM
If it was MINORITY kids with the hour on the school bus, all hell would break loose.Yeah. I went there.
Suzanne Spinelli September 26, 2011 at 07:42 PM
Frankly, an hour each way on the bus could be an hour each way of your OWN time...why is that so awful. I really don't understand what the issue is, other than some people seem to want to whine terribly about something that really isn't all that important to begin with. Being on the bus for a while after school does give the kids some time to wind down, and that is bad how? Tell me how this whole thing with riding for an hour is so horrible?
TJC September 26, 2011 at 07:44 PM
what's a soccar?
Suzanne Spinelli September 26, 2011 at 07:44 PM
This comment came out a little weird. What I meant was: I used to walk to most of my schools, but the one where I had the bus, if I missed it, I would have to walk. It was pretty far too. SO I think all the whiny individuals need to teach their kids to suck it up. The choice is walk those miles or take the bus. Mummy shouldn't have to drive them except in special circumstances. Either way, stop whining.
TJC September 26, 2011 at 08:15 PM
Wow. Those are some tough words, Ms. Spinelli. Lets see if you can back them up. I propose that we all meet at McKinley or Stratford School tomorrow morning, (your choice) and we walk to Tomlinson as if we had missed the bus. Bring a big ole backpack full of books like my kids lug back and forth every day too, just to keep it real. At that point, if we feel that such a journey is appropriate for an 11 year old who happened to miss the bus. When we get there around lunch time, we can discuss how we'll tell all of these parent's to 'suck it up.' (grab an umbrella, its supposed to rain I think.)
Melioro September 26, 2011 at 08:17 PM
It would be better to address the cause of this issue as opposed to debating the symptoms. The majority of parents were against option e, and several times they told the BOE that this would be a problem and they assured us it wouldn't be, but of course (once again) they made a poor decision which they are now trying to hide by blaming parents. For those defending an hour long bus ride, particularly those from the areas such as the Midwest, would you be upset if your child was on an hour long bus ride, but passed two other elementary schools on the way? And what if you lived across the street from an elementary school, but were told instead of walking across the street you had to put your kid on a bus for an hour. So call it whining if you will, but in actuality it is just pure stupidity on the part of the BOE for even instituting this plan. They could have saved money, prevented the long bus rides, made parents happy, and kids healthier by maximizing walkers. Instead, the members of the BOE chose option e because it best suited them. (feel free to look at the oddly shaped district map on the BOE website, and overlay that with the address of the major proponents of option e. Nothing like having self serving individuals making decisions like this)
TJC September 26, 2011 at 08:18 PM
hmm, never thought of this! Maybe all those mothers that have to work in order to help their families stay above water in these difficult times should simply... not work! That's right! Quit your jobs, everyone! Genius! Ladies and Gentlemen, I think we have found our Genius Town Planner--right here in our midst!
Stacey September 26, 2011 at 09:08 PM
Bravo Melioro! Exactly! TJC -- Let us know how your walk to TMS with Ms. Spinelli goes tomorrow.
TJC September 26, 2011 at 09:23 PM
Thanks, Stacey. From the looks of Suzanne "WHAT'S a MENSA?" Spinelli's patch profile, she doesn't live anywhere near Fairfield and just likes to troll different articles and pretend that her IQ is 3 digits. I'm pretty sure she wouldn't be able to find Fairfield, let alone Stratfield School, on a map.
Fairfield Resident September 27, 2011 at 04:10 AM
Westport used to bus students from Bridgeport...........
Stacey September 27, 2011 at 01:02 PM
Fairfield Resident -- As far as I know, Fairfield still buses students in from Bridgeport. And, guess what?? Even their commute time is shorter than ours! Another large part of he commute fiasco is the drivers who don't know where they're going. My daughter comes home on a daily basis (think she's on their 4th bus driver now) telling me stories how their bus drivers drive in endless circles and are constantly turning around after missing streets and designated stops. The bus routes are not well thought out and there is much wasted time on poorly planned routes! Yesterday, her bus driver was having students on the bus returning text messages for him! Yes, at least he wasn't trying to text while driving but he was talking on his cell phone while driving!
STG September 27, 2011 at 01:26 PM
These are your tax dollars at work. We should not be wastefully spending them to give kids an hour long bus ride so they can have free time and they should just deal with it because its already been decided. It doesn't take an hour to bus kids to school in Fairfield. The only reason its taking so long is because some ones thought it would be a brilliant idea to mix things up. How much money does it cost for gas to bus these kids that length of time? What happens in bad weather when there is more of a chance for bus accidents on a longer route? I'd much rather the schools use that time and money on school equipment or bullying programs. I'd much rather the kids have time to eat a good breakfast rather than race to catch a bus for an hour long ride. Its probably dark in the mornings - they can't study or read on the bus. They will probably be texting the entire time so now they get to school tired, hungry with a headache. And to get the police involved to arrest parents dropping off kids? I don't think the police should be spending their time (and our tax dollars) on policing school parking lots. Was the parking situation not taken into consideration when the plans were drawn up? Who made these decisions? They should be fired involved and everything should be revisited for next school year with parent input/vote.
Fairfield Resident September 27, 2011 at 01:27 PM
Stacey....... Your reading comprehension is atrocious. I said "Westport"......not "Fairfield. If you think the bus routes are not well thought out.......why don't you help the town out and volunteer some time to help them lay out better routes? The problem today is school buses have to stop at every driveway instead of at street corners or every few driveways because parents are too paranoid about their little rug rats and kids are too lazy to walk a few blocks to a central bus stop like we did many many years ago. Have a Blessed Day!
Stacey September 27, 2011 at 01:33 PM
My reading comprehension is just fine, thank you. I was just adding that Fairfield (since that's what we're talking about here) also does bus students in from Bridgeport. I have spoken to the FPS transportation dept. on multiple occasions regarding bus routes and related issues. You have a wonderful day, too.
STG September 27, 2011 at 02:21 PM
It isn't about what you did as a child or parents spoiling spoiled kids. Its about the fact that the hour long bus ride is an unneeded one (in a lot of cases but not all) and the teachers and students and tax payers have been directly affected by a financial and logistical decisions that need to be revisited. I won't even go into fumes in the air or unsafe buses or questionable bus drivers. I don't have a kid in middle or high school. I'm simply a tax payer and I don't like to hear kids are taking an hour long bus ride for redistricting purposes because some town officials decided it to be so. That's not good enough for me. Last I knew we paid their salaries - and pensions. When did we get so passive about decisions being made for us that turned out to be bad? Kids should go to the school closest to their homes - if that means spending tax dollars to renovate those schools then I'd rather do that than this nonsense.
STG September 27, 2011 at 02:27 PM
Totally agree Melioro..
Carol Papageorge September 27, 2011 at 02:32 PM
I no longer have school age children, and I am a strong believer in neighborhood schools. it's very difficult to justify having a child take a long bus ride when there is a school much closer to their home. There have always been a handful of streets that are on the boarder but this situation is a real nightmare for everyone. Poor planning all around. Carol P.
something to think about September 27, 2011 at 06:22 PM
"Neighborhood schools" is an ideal I'm sure we'd all like to strive towards. However, when the town chose to build the 3rd middle school (RLMS) practically next to Tomlinson, that ideal can no longer be achieved for everyone. Out of the 11 elementary schools in town, Jennings, Stratfield, North Stratfield, McKinley, and large portions of Holland Hill, Osborn Hill and Burr's districts would all consider Fairfield Woods to be their "neighborhood school." That's 4 schools and portions of 3 others that are closer to Fairfield Woods than the other 2 middle schools. Unfortunately a large majority of the students in this town are closer to Fairfield Woods than the other 2 schools -- that means that lots of people are going to be upset and that the long bus rides that North Stratfield and Stratfield students endured before the redistricting are going to continue. That said, it does seem odd that there's such a disparity in the amount of time the siblings who go both TMS and RLMS spend on the bus after school. Bus routes usually have the same routes in the morning as the afternoon -- so those first on the bus in the morning are the first off in the afternoon. I'm curious if that might be part of what's going on in that family; does the child who attends RLMS get on the bus significantly in the morning earlier than his TMS sibling?
TJC September 27, 2011 at 07:07 PM
the RLMS bus comes to our neighborhood about 10 minutes before the Tomlinson bus
P.I. September 27, 2011 at 07:28 PM
The BOE has a Transportation Manager, Mr. Ficke. He uses some sort of software when dealing with the routes. Perhaps there is a bug in the common sense aspect of the programming. BTW, buses do not stop at every driveway. It may appear that way at the elementary school level because there are so many children in our Town but it's certainly not true at the MS & HS level.
I.P. September 28, 2011 at 12:55 PM
A fix?? Get over yourself. It's done. What's a new board going to do, cancel grandfathering mid-year? Completely reverse the feeder plan in a matter of months? NOT GONNA HAPPEN!!!!!!!!!!!! The plan is the plan is the plan. Stop whining. Why don't you focus on academics?
STG September 28, 2011 at 02:51 PM
I agree that we are very blessed to be in such a great school district and there is much we can do for others in need but that is even more reason why we shouldn't waste taxpayers money on extra gas for busing kids around town. Its not pathetic and sad to question questionable decisions - its why we are such a good school district - because the parents get involved and take a stand when they see something that's not working. The school year already started so nothing can be done for this year but next year things can be revisited.
TJC September 29, 2011 at 10:23 AM
Regardless of the Option E and grandfathering decisions (which I agree cannot be changed at this point in the school year) bus routes can, and should, change so that some of the situations above will be improved. Ticketing parents for dropping off/picking up their kids is not addressing the problem. Fix the root cause (the poor busing routes) and the need for parents to drop their kids off will diminish.
Brian September 29, 2011 at 11:00 AM
After reading the comments by residents, a reader can see two perspectives on "the issue". Probably some parents who have heard complaints from their kids about the bullying taking place on the bus ride. Yup, it does happen and what better environment than the morning or afternoon spent with "friends" an hour or so before and after school? Kids can adapt but nobody but the bullies like a rowdy bus.
Sara September 30, 2011 at 12:47 AM
As opposed to the clueless wonders at the far left of the table. All this negativity and you wonder why no one wants to run for the BOE.
Sydney September 30, 2011 at 04:43 AM
Oh Spender aka Sue Brand, why do you keeping going after your fellow BOE members that were going to remove you as Chairman of the BOE? You are now also going against new candidates that you did not hand select - naughty girl! Put your ego aside and you will agree that you were not meant to lead. I know and our whole party knows. Don't bring us down over your childish ego!

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