WALLINGFORD — There weren’t any buses idling in front of Sheehan High School or in Moran Middle School’s parking lot Monday morning. Instead, shortly after 7 a.m., buses began pulling into the high school’s driveway to drop off students.
School administrators had discovered buses were arriving to Sheehan earlier than 7 a.m. and that, because there’s no adult supervision at the schools until 7 a.m., the buses would park and wait either on Hope Hill Road or in Moran’s parking lot. Parents had expressed concerns on social media that the buses were left idling.
The buses were “coming much earlier than anticipated” and before the schools had adequate supervision, said School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo, so students weren’t allowed to get off the buses.
“It goes back to student safety,” he said. “We don’t want the students to be unattended. We want them to feel safe with the appropriate supervision.”
But Menzo said the buses were never left idling, which also meant the school system was in compliance with the state’s no idling law that prohibits vehicles from idling for more than three minutes to protect passengers from diesel fumes.
“They don’t remain idling there,” Menzo said. “They turn the engines off.”
Though the buses weren’t idling, he added that it wasn’t the school system’s recommendation to line up in the street but rather the idea of the bus company, Durham School Services.
The parents, who took to a community forum on Facebook to express concerns and frustrations, also questioned what they believed was a policy preventing bus drivers from pulling into Sheehan’s driveway before 7 a.m.
Preventing the buses from entering Sheehan before 7 a.m. was never a policy, Menzo said, but rather a practice educators tried to put in effect. However, it became difficult because the bus routes constantly change, resulting in early arrivals, he added. Menzo acknowledged adjustments had to be made, but he said there were only two or three days when the students had to wait on the bus before being dropped off.
To prevent any more early arrivals and eliminate the amount of time students have to wait on the bus before Sheehan opens, Menzo said he worked with the bus company.
“We have an arrangement with the bus company and the key thing is trying to get them to get here closer to on time,” Menzo said. “... The interesting thing is that we’re trying to make sure we have supervision of the students in the morning and we’re trying to work with the bus company so students get there a little later so they don’t have to wait on the bus.”
A representative from Durham School Services did not return a call for comment on Monday.
In addition to the early arrivals of the buses, one parent, Toni Covino-Wood, was frustrated with the lack of communication with educators. Menzo said he believed there was communication with parents, but added “it wouldn’t be the first time they didn’t receive it.” Sheehan Principal Rosemary Duthie did not return a call for comment on Monday.
While Covino-Wood said she didn’t have the solution as to how communication can be better, she acknowledged there was a problem. With teachers and even Menzo on Twitter, she suggested sending a tweet to notify students and parents.
“They need to communicate more,” Covino-Wood said. “I definitely think there is a communication problem, but I don’t put this all on Menzo.”