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Eden Central School District officials say they are making improvements to help reduce hourlong-plus bus rides home for some pupils, but some parents say it still is not enough.

"School is becoming (like) a punishment to them," parent Barbara Unger said of her children's long bus ride home to Rice Road in the Town of Boston. They do not arrive home until after 4:30 p.m. now, and in the winter, their ride will probably last until 5 p.m., she said.

"Why not divide the bus route? It's too long," Mrs. Unger told the School Board last week.

In September, several parents grilled administrators on the long bus rides, complained of different drivers for their children on morning and afternoon rides and spoke of occasional overcrowded conditions on the East Eden Road bus route.

Some residents said their children, who were dismissed from the North Main Street Elementary School at 3:10 p.m., were arriving home before their younger children who attend the Grover L. Priess Elementary School and are dismissed at 2:40 p.m.

Since then, however, school officials say they have added a new route to reduce the number of turnarounds some buses were making on other routes and also have reassigned some children to other routes to reduce riding time. The new route in part covers areas of Jennings, Yochum, Gary and New Oregon roads, Sisson Highway and part of North Collins along School Street. Additional radio coverage for buses still operating between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. also is now provided, with personnel available at the bus garage to answer parents' questions and concerns if their children have not yet arrived home from school.

In addition, dismissal time has become more regular, especially at Priess School, which contains kindergarten through second-grade, Business Administrator Elizabeth Hassett told parents.

"We started out the school year with a very chaotic dismissal," Mrs. Hassett said.

Part of the problem at Priess School stemmed from the adjustment of adding 175 more children to the building when the district moved the second-grade level to the school from the North Main Street Elementary School to establish a primary center and address growing enrollment.

Adding to the busing problems was uncertainty about the number of riders since some parents waited until the first day of school to enroll their children in the district, Mrs. Hassett said. Also, the district decided this year to have three separate sets of bus runs -- one for each of its schools, including the junior-senior high school. Elementary school pupils and Priess School pupils are bused together in the morning, but separately in the afternoon due to different dismissal times.

Mrs. Hassett stressed that district buses, which cover a 72-square-mile-area, spend additional time dropping students off at their homes. She said a bus assigned to East Pleasant Avenue has to stop 22 times in a half-mile stretch.

Bus drivers have to wait to make sure an adult is home when kindergarten through second grade pupils are dropped off and on some occasions, they end up bringing a child back to the bus garage until a parent can be contacted.

The two longer bus routes in the district, located in the Boston area, are still averaging 70 minutes for rides home. Mrs. Hassett said there is probably not much else the district can do to resolve that, since those students live at the far end of the district.

"We will not be able to make everybody happy," she told parents, stressing that safe transportation is the primary goal. "For 1996-97, we have addressed this the best that we can. We don't have the buses to add routes."

Parent Mark Braun of Boston vowed to fight for more acceptable, shorter bus rides home for his children. He said they have a 95-minute ride home to Boston from the North Main Elementary School each day.

"I, as a concerned parent, will not stand for it," Braun told the board. "I'll do whatever it takes to shorten the bus run."

Parent Dawn Frew, who said she lives 3.3 miles from the school, says she will drive to school and pick her daughter up instead of letting her sit on the bus until 4 p.m. "That is ridiculous," she said.

Justin Dubreville of East Eden said his son's bus ride to their East Eden home initially was "ludicrously long," but is now somewhat better.

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