Busing practice draws concern


REGION 16 — School cancellations, delayed openings and early dismissals are an unavoidable part of winter in New England. One Region 16 parent wants to make sure the district avoids what happened recently to her daughter moving forward.

Liz Untict’s daughter attends Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury, one of about half a dozen out-of-district high schools Region 16 students attend and are bused to by the district. Recently, Region 14, the district that Nonnewaug serves, had a two-hour delay while Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, opened at the normal time. Although Region 14 had a delay, the Region 16-supplied bus arrived at Untict’s home in Prospect at the normal time to take her daughter to school.

Untict raised concerns about the practice to the Region 16 Board of Education at its meeting last week. She said she was confused as to why the district would bus students into another district where the superintendent delayed opening schools because the roads were deemed unsafe.

“My concern is for the safety of my daughter and the other students that need to go out of town,” Untict said.

Untict also expressed concerns that something could happen at the school while her daughter waited for the day to begin, or if the school grounds were unsafe due to the weather conditions. She said she asked officials the reason behind the practice and was told it was contractual, though she couldn’t find anything specific in the busing contract.

The region is in the fifth, and final, year of a busing contract with All-Star Transportation. The contract expires at the end of the school year.

Untict asked the board to amend the contract, if possible, and to look into more specific language regarding delays in the next contract.

“I think she has a valid concern,” said Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin in a subsequent interview.

Yamin said the region has about 48 buses for students, not including the buses for special education students who attend schools outside of the district. He said the buses for high school students are used for younger students after they’ve dropped off the older students. If a bus is delayed because another district opened late, he said, it wouldn’t be available for the younger students in the region.

Yamin said it’s unlikely anything would change this year, but that officials will look into the issue when the next contract is discussed.

The situation is handled very similarly in Naugatuck.

Naugatuck Public Schools Assistant Business Manager Bernice Rizk, who is the busing coordinator for the district, said most of the buses for students who attend high schools outside of the borough follow Naugatuck’s schedule.

Naugatuck contracts with Student Transportation of America for most of its busing. If other districts have a delay and Naugatuck doesn’t, Rizk said students are picked up at the regular time. If Naugatuck has a delay and other districts don’t, students are picked up at the later time, she said.

Rizk echoed Yamin’s sentiments saying the borough would run into an issue with busing younger students if other buses were delayed because another district opened late. She said the situation doesn’t come up often, but when it does Naugatuck officials work with other schools to let them know what’s going on.

The exception, Rizk said, is busing for Naugatuck students that attend magnet schools in Waterbury. She said the district contracts with All-Star Transportation to bring students to the magnet schools. Since this is their only contract with Naugatuck, she said, these buses follow the magnet schools’ schedules.