Administrators in the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District apologized to parents of some of the district's youngest elementary school pupils Monday, in the wake of busing problems last week that caused some pupils to arrive home up to 1 1/2 hours late.
The transportation problems -- most of which occurred at Hoover Elementary School, and some of which are still ongoing -- made for some anxious students and justifiably irate parents, administrators said.
"Yes, some students were very, very late," said Superintendent David A. Paciencia in a statement at the start of Monday's School Board meeting.
"We intend to review every day last week, and talk about what went well and why, and what went badly and why. Hopefully, we will never revisit any kids getting home late."
Steven A. Achramovitch, assistant superintendent for personnel, said the problems were due to the fact that last week -- the first week of school in the district -- was also the first week Ken-Ton has operated under a universal busing policy for all pupils in kindergarten through fifth grade.
The new policy means that elementary schools like Hoover -- where an estimated 40 to 50 percent of pupils used to walk to school -- were overwhelmed with the number of children now looking to be bused, Achramovitch said.
"Transporting all students in grades K through 5 proved to be a little bit more than we can handle," Achramovitch said. "It was unpredictable -- if we had seen it coming, we could have been better prepared for it."
Achramovitch, echoing remarks of the superintendent, said the district "apologizes to people who were affected by this."
There were several reasons the delays in afternoon busing persisted last week, starting with the worst of the problems Tuesday, the first day of school, Achramovitch said.
Many pupils, especially at Hoover, were put on the wrong afternoon buses at the school itself, and the buses had to be rerouted mid-trip to drop off those children, he said.
Other factors included many changed or incorrect addresses as well as a district policy against dropping children off at homes without parents or other adults there to receive them, leading to flurries of communication between the buses, the transportation garage, and parents, Achramovitch said.
For pupils at Hoover Elementary, the school that had the worst problems, the delays on the first day ranged from a few minutes to 1 1/2 hours, Achramovitch said. As the week went on, the delays grew shorter but still weren't eliminated, he said.
The problems are continuing this week but the district is working as fast as possible to fix them, Achramovitch said.
Neither Paciencia nor Achramovitch faulted the district's Transportation Department for the problems, saying the bus drivers and other workers spent extra hours dropping off pupils and working to do last-minute reroutings of the buses.