Parents await word on bus status

As kindergartners across Shelton went on practice bus runs, city officials still have not confirmed that buses will run as scheduled for the opening of school Tuesday, Sept. 3.

A final word was to come at 10 a.m. today, Friday, Aug. 30, but delays in the state Department of Motor Vehicles officials’ inspection of drivers’ records and the final push to secure enough drivers for all buses have pushed the announcement to this afternoon.

The city plans to subcontract drivers, if regular drivers are not hired in time.

Board of Education Chairman Mark Holden, during the Here for Shelton Facebook Live event Thursday, Aug. 29, said that subcontracting for drivers is smart, “allowing the city time to recruit drivers for the balance of the school year.

“It is unfortunate that the city underestimated the magnitude of this operation, they started late and now they have to scramble,” said Holden, “but to their credit, they are working hard to make this happen. I appreciate that.”

While not all bus drivers’ records are yet verified, Shelton students are being driven to Emmett O’Brien Technical High School, Platt Technical High School, Trumbull Vo-Ag and Cooperative Educational Services (CES).

School Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet said about a dozen drivers were needed for the bus runs from Shelton to Emmett O’Brien, in Ansonia, Platt Tech in Milford, and Trumbull Vo-Ag and CES, also in Trumbull, and “all have been cleared to drive by DMV.”

DMV officials have been able to look through records provided by Durham School Services, which handled student transportation for the city during the 2018-19 school year, for those drivers that simply moved from Durham to the city-run service.

Clouet confirmed this information Monday, Aug. 26, after talking with Ken Nappi, SSTS director. Clouet said the district is “waiting to review the records of all the drivers and would expect that, according to the request for proposal the city agreed to adhere to, background checks will also be completed.”

The city officially took over control of the school bus transportation operation on July 1, and summer school started on July 9. The regular Shelton school year is scheduled to begin Tuesday, Sept. 3.

Clouet said state law requires that when a new company assumes school bus operations, such as the city did on July 1, that the new company must perform all required drug testing and background checks. Clouet said that Nappi told him all drivers were drug tested on Friday, Aug. 23. At that point, Clouet said no complaint had been filed, but he had planned to return to the city bus garage Aug. 28 to inspect all records from the recently completed testing to make sure each driver was adequately screened.

As of Monday, Mayor Mark Lauretti Lauretti said the city was still short some 10 drivers, and the hiring search continues.

“I remain focused on getting this job done,” said Lauretti regarding any contingency plans that could be needed for the start of school Sept. 3. “I cannot speculate on what may or may not happen right now. I believe there are people who do not want us to succeed. Shelton taking over the operation projects to have a huge savings for the city, which will make a lot of people look bad.”