Buses run, but parents vent on overcrowding, missed stops, late runs in Shelton

SHELTON — There were no missed routes, and all buses had a driver, but some parents took to social media to blast the city-run bus company over late runs, overcrowded buses and missed stops during the schools’ opening on Wednesday.

Superintendent Ken Saranich said missing stops and long waits are unfortunate but common at the start of every school year.

“All bus runs ran and had a driver,” Saranich said. “As there is a national shortage of drivers, with Connecticut reporting almost 700 unfilled bus driver positions statewide, the biggest concern was the possibility of a lack of drivers, and it was not an issue for Shelton.”

One parent stated that her son told her his bus was so crowded, he was forced to stand the entire ride. Another wrote that one bus has 77 students assigned on it, and her son told her they had to split the kids into two buses, and then the two buses followed each other stopping at all the stops together.

Others stated that children reported some buses had children with no masks, calling into question the safety of the buses at this point.

Shelton Student Transportation Services Director Ken Nappi said the city company, like others in the state and country, is dealing with the driver shortage — but in Shelton there are enough drivers to cover all routes each day.

“The major concern for the drivers and our company is the safety of the students ... we will not allow for a situation in which the students’ safety is put at risk,” Nappi said. “Our bus drivers are special people, and they take their responsibility seriously.”

Nappi said one bus was determined to have too many students, but it did not leave the school until a second bus was brought to the site to break up the large group. He did not directly address parents’ comments about students not wearing masks or standing on the bus.

“I expect the first few days to be hectic, as it is in any system,” Nappi said. “We will try our best to correct the problems that surface. We will strive to make it better and fulfill our responsibility to the students and parents of this city.”

Nappi also praised the drivers, saying these individuals remained with SSTS when they might have found more money with other operations.

“They decided to stay,” Nappi said, adding that many of these drivers have been transporting the same students for years and have developed relationships with the children and parents over that time.

Saranich said, aside from the busing issues, day one was like any other regular opening day.

“It was a great day,” he said. “We safely and successfully returned all of our students to full day in-person instruction. We will continue to work with (Shelton Student Transportation Services) to resolve all the issues.

“Students are happy to be back, and we are happy to be back with them,” Saranich added.

Board of Education Chair Kathy Yolish said she was made aware there were some delays in picking up students as well as arriving home on time.

“The first few days have always had these glitches, and I am sure it will improve,” Yolish said.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com