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Fredonia to evaluate Wheelock bus routes

An issue for many years in the Fredonia Central School District has been transportation of students home from the Wheelock School after dismissal.

The district had been working “behind the scenes” for a couple of months to address the issue, according to Fredonia Superintendent Dr. Brad Zilliox. But recently, after the district had encountered multiple issues in dropping students off where they need to be in an accurate and timely manner, the district has increased its efforts to evaluate separate bus runs from the Wheelock School directly to students’ homes.

The current transportation system within the district requires Wheelock students to board a bus to Fredonia Elementary School. Once they arrive, the preschool and kindergarten aged students are then transferred to another bus to head home. Transferring from one bus to another puts additional stress on the young students, as well as the staff who are responsible for transferring the students to the correct bus.

“Watching the faces of these four-year-olds getting on buses, knowing they have to transfer, and the tears at dismissal breaks your heart. They don’t always know what is happening and they are afraid about having to transfer,” Wheelock Principal Amy Piper said. “That’s a piece that we see every day.”

The current system also increases the likelihood of mistakes, which have been reported on multiple cases, leaving parents or guardians in a panic when their child is not where they are expected to be. After concerns were raised at a previous Board of Education meeting, the Board asked for a prompt resolution.

The district has consulted with First Student, as well as an independent consultant the district previously contracted for an analysis of the school’s bus routes for efficiency. Because of the timing of dismissal, students from Wheelock often sit on a bus for nearly 30 minutes before they depart from Fredonia Central School.

“The idea here, though, is let’s keep these kids from sitting around on a bus for half an hour and transferring. So we’re reducing the headache for the students and for the staff here. We’re making it easier on the student in the long run to get home,” Board of Education member Aaron Marshall said.

Among the points the district sees in favor of keeping the current system is that multiple students travel home on the bus with older siblings in the district. A Wheelock-only bus run could present timing issues for families regarding the arrival of their children at different times.

“What might that mean to a family if they are not arriving at the same time,” Zilliox stated.

In response, Board of Education member Sheila Hahn suggested offering one bus route to remain the same as it is currently to give families the option to choose, while the other routes take students from Wheelock directly home.

If a shift is made, buses would be diverted from their current routes, rather than adding buses and drivers. Zilliox stated the change would not be a notable cost to the district.

“It seems like it’s possible that this could work,” Zilliox said. The district will now survey its families to receive additional input.

“We’ve been asking for it for a couple of years,” Piper said. “… I’m grateful that you’re taking a look at that.”

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