Huntington school bus service will fully resume, district officials say

Bus service for the Huntington School District will resume in full in the coming days, though families on dozens of routes can still expect delays Friday and at least early next week, officials said Thursday. school officials.

The development comes after the district’s transportation service provider said earlier this week that it would stop transporting students in the district due to a shortage of workers.

WHAT THERE IS TO KNOW

Huntington School District officials said On Thursday, its transportation service provider, Huntington Coach Corp., will not stop providing bus services as it announced to the district earlier this week.

Bus services will resume in full in the coming days. But families on dozens of routes can still expect delays on Friday and at least early next week.

Parents who struggled to get their kids to school on time On Thursday, they wanted the district to come up with a long-term plan to prevent such a crisis from happening again.

“I am relieved to inform you that we have now received assurances from officials of the Huntington Coach Corporation that they will in fact abide by the terms and conditions associated with all existing contracts with the Huntington Union Free School District,” wrote the Superintendent James Polansky in a letter to families Thusday. “There will be no interruption of services.”

Polansky said the backlogs students had on Thursday would continue on Friday, but noted the company is working to resolve the majority of them by early next week.

The extent of the delays was unclear; Polansky had estimated Wednesday that for Thursday, they would oscillate between a few minutes and two hours. Some students arrived late for school on Thursday, school officials said.

Polansky could not be reached Thursday for further comment.

“Beyond tomorrow [Friday]the district will communicate with families if/when delays are imminent on any given day,” he wrote.

Huntington Coach Corp. did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Thursday.

The announcement came a day after Polansky, in a letter, told families that Huntington Coach would cut services starting Thursday and stop providing bus services in the district altogether after Oct. 8.

Huntington Coach Vice President Brendan Clifford released a statement on Wednesday citing the national driver shortage and COVID-19 state safety mandates as reasons to walk away from the three-year contract he signed with the district in April, a stance the company has since apparently reversed.

Clifford did not respond to a question on Thursday on why the company initially chose to withdraw services for Huntington schools — a move it says would not affect the other districts it serves. Huntington Coach provides services to several other districts, including Syosset and Manhasset, according to its website.

Indignation, then relief

The news of the service cuts sparked confusion and outrage as frustrated parents rushed to offer alternative plans to get their children to school on time.

Some organized carpools. Many have rearranged their schedules for driving their children to school so as not to waste instruction time.

Parents breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday when they heard of the new development, but said they remained concerned about the long-term stability of child bus services.

“Community and student trust has been breached,” said Daniel Akridge, who drove his daughter to Our Lady of Mercy Academy in Syosset on Thursday after learning she would be 90 minutes late for school. if she took the bus.

A local district is responsible for transportation of students who live in the district but attend private schools outside the district.

“Who’s to say something like this isn’t going to happen anytime in the future?” Akridge said.

Akridge and other parents said they want to see the district work on a contingency plan and a long-term strategy.

“It is the responsibility, at this point, of the district to realize that we are beholden to a monopoly,” said Ed Milner, referring to the fact that Huntington Coach was the only company to answer the call of district offers this year. “We need to look at subsequent sources in the future to make sure we’re not placed in this type of locker where we have no options.”

Milner, a Huntington father of three, said he was glad a resolution had been reached at the moment, but wanted it to happen sooner.

“If the bus company had just had the conversation that happened before, this whole thing could have been avoided, and I wouldn’t be on the Northern State Parkway right now in traffic,” Milner said as he spoke. he was returning home after picking up his son from Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale.

For Erin O’Brien, who woke up at 5:15 a.m. — an hour earlier than usual — Thursday to drive her three daughters to Latin School, a division of Kellenberg Memorial High School, the letter from superintendent still left her unstable.

“I think they’re headed in the right direction. So that’s heartwarming,” she said. But “it’s not like it solved everything. It kind of left things there. It makes me a little nervous. There’s no finality.”

O’Brien said she also did not receive notification from the school district on Wednesday, although the superintendent said affected families had been notified.

“The letter says they will let us know if there is any delay,” she said. “I mean, it wasn’t a complete success. They didn’t reach everyone.”

Akridge said he wanted to see more transparency and communication from school officials as he heard about the service cut from his daughter, who learned about it from her bus driver on Wednesday. morning.

“It’s not the children’s problem,” he said. “These kids have enough to do in their lives, especially coming out of COVID, where they shouldn’t have to worry about their bus drivers being the ones who first let them know they’re not potentially have a way to get to and from school.”

Melvin Z. Madore