Shelton Public Schools will open as expected on Tuesday, Sept. 4 — thanks, in large part, to the district’s transportation vendor, Durham School Services, “jumping through hoops,” school officials say.
Superintendent Chris Clouet said at a press conference Thursday that he had expected he would be announcing a delayed school opening but was happy to report a different outcome. Yesterday, only three of 60 city-owned buses had been re-registered with the state.
“As of noon today, 40 of 60 buses had registrations renewed,” Dr. Clouet said. “We can’t operate without a full fleet and we now anticipate having all the buses in play.”
Dr. Clouet thanked Durham School Services for its support during the “unusual process” and chair Mark Holden added that Durham has “jumped through hoops” in order to get ready for the first day of school.
The “unusual process” has included the City of Shelton suing the Board of Education earlier this summer over its contract with Durham and refusing use of its buses. That lawsuit was settled and the city’s buses will be leased to Durham. Durham and the city reached a final agreement yesterday, Thursday, Aug. 30.
Adding to the delay in a transportation contract, school officials learned last week that roughly half of 60 city-owned buses failed state inspections.
Durham’s Senior Vice President of Business Development, John Elliott Jr., spoke to the inspection failures, saying some were small issues like broken lights while other buses needed more serious work.
“It ran the gamut from minor to major,” Elliott said.
In addition, Durham must letter all the buses and perform its own inspections. Five Durham maintenance employees were working today on Shelton’s buses and another seven will be joining the job this evening. He said staff have been working around the clock.
“Our policies and procedures exceed most state regulations,” Elliott told the The Herald.
Elliott echoed a similar sentiment to school officials in regards to Shelton’s protracted transportation issues.
“I’ve never been through anything like this,” Elliott said. “But we have a good team in place. None of this could have happened without 40 people mobilizing behind the scenes.”
Shelton Schools will be able to provide transportation for CES students on Friday, Aug. 31. Officials were still unsure Thursday afternoon if students in tech programs will have bus transportation on Friday.
While schools will open on time, the board will not realize the savings it had hoped from the new transportation contract. Those savings were to be used to end pay to participate fees but, for now, those fees remain in place. Read more here.