Letter: Bus issues began before COVID, parents deserve answers

Below is a Letter to the Editor from this week's Shelton Herald. If you'd like to have a letter to the editor run next week, email letters to brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com

Below is a Letter to the Editor from this week's Shelton Herald. If you'd like to have a letter to the editor run next week, email letters to brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com

Contributed photo

To the Editor:

I would like to offer my insight into the views of Shelton Alderman Anthony Simonetti in his letter dated March 9. He states: “The recent short comings and criticisms of the SSTS are, however, not fair nor deserved.” The criticism is deserved, and every resident should be demanding answers.

Issues with the buses started before COVID. Service has been a problem since the BOE was forced to accept the city as their transportation supplier. When the city started in July 2019, bus drivers were driving their runs without having been properly vetted and drug tested. The first day of school in September 2019 was delayed because the city did not have enough drivers. Bus runs were overcrowded with students sitting in the aisles. There was an incident where a driver was pulled over, with kids on the bus, and removed for being drunk. There were times in 2019 where the students waited at the bus stop and parents called multiple times to hear that the buses were on the way and the buses never showed. Last month, there was no bus service after a weekend snowstorm because the city failed to plow the bus yard.

Alderman Simonetti says that many school systems have the same issues. A Google search looking for bus issues only shows Shelton and Stamford. With 172 school districts in CT, if we take the Alderman at his word that nine school districts are having issues, that means that 163 school districts are doing something right.

His next points are if you have never run a company before you can’t understand the problems, the school has sporadic closings, and the city lost drivers. A year ago, when the pandemic hit and schools shut down, the state requested bus companies keep the drivers on payroll despite no service. The city disregarded this request and laid off all bus drivers, despite being paid in full by the BOE. These laid-off bus drivers chose to leave for other bus companies or other opportunities. The shortage of drivers today is due to this poor decision. I have searched online for bus driver opportunities and see help wanted ads for other towns, but not for Shelton. If there is a shortage, why am I not seeing ads for Shelton drivers?

The Shelton Student Transportation Services has been paid in full by the BOE despite school being closed for a significant portion of the year. They have an ongoing failure to meet services 100 percent when school is in session. School was shut down from March 2020 to September 2020, and then from November 2020 to January 2021. The city had plenty of time to figure out how to retain the drivers and provide the contracted service. Service has not gotten better. The buses are not running at 100 percent. COVID has highlighted the deficiencies of the bus company but it is not the cause of it. The bus company is not managed well and is severely underperforming. This is your tax dollars being spent.

Lisa Hurlbert

Shelton