The School Board unanimously approved moving a citizen’s petition related to bus stop locations and procedures to the Deliberative Session, but voted 5-0 against supporting it.
The Fletcher citizen’s petition, Article 11, Transportation Costs, would require the District to raise $451,552 and if passed would have a $.13 per thousand impact on the tax rate, according to district officials.
“It would create clarity in an area where there is none, it creates safety for the most vulnerable members of our town, and it creates fairness because it wouldn’t allow some people to get picked up at their house and others not to,” said Susan Fletcher of 13 Darrow Way, who drafted the citizen petition.
Fletcher and her husband, David, petitioned the School Board last year to move their child’s bus stop from the top of their cul-de-sac closer to their home due to safety concerns they have with the intersection.
The Fletchers appealed the School Board’s decision that the stop was safe to the New Hampshire Department of Education, which ultimately sided with the School Board.
Members of the Board chose not to speak publicly about the warrant article, particularly because Fletcher was not at the Jan. 15 public hearing to answer questions they may have had or to rebut any of their comments.
The dollar amount proposed for the warrant article was calculated by Business Administrator Peter Curro, who said the District would have to purchase eight additional buses, as well as software to implement the policy.
“Maybe software is the answer. With the buses, it’s not a capacity issue because those buses are half-full – it’s a timing issue,” said Fletcher. “I asked Peter Curro for further information about how he came up with that amount, but he hasn’t given me anything yet.
The petition, which is only related to the busing of elementary school students, calls for the School Board to adopt a student transportation policy that includes policies and procedures for school bus stop locations and procedures for determining hazardous roadways, taking into consideration distance and locating stops at the driveway of the youngest student within the .25-mile walking distance.
“Students tend to forget about pedestrian safety, making a driveway the safest location for pick-up and discharge,” the petition says. “Visibility of the bus stop location to an elementary school student’s home will be a factor in determining the most appropriate stop.”
“At the elementary school level, the biggest issue is there’s no written policy for where the bus stop will be,” Fletcher said. “Some bus drivers won’t let kids off the bus if a parent isn’t there. A friend of mine told me last week her son was 15 to 20 minutes late because the bus waited for a child who gets dropped off outside his house. His parents weren’t outside and they usually wait at the stop for him. It puts a lot of extra responsibility on the bus drivers, parents and administrators because no one knows what the rules are.”
Additionally, Fletcher said she would like to see bus stops planned objectively and fairly according to a set policy.
“’Safe’ is subjective because without sidewalks and proper snow removal, no stop is safe, in my opinion,” she said. “I don’t think elementary school kids should have to stand in the middle of the road regardless of where their school is.”
Fletcher said she was disappointed to learn of the high cost associated with her petition, but she didn’t have time to probe more deeply due to time constraints on filing.
“Maybe the fact that people signed it and it’s on the warrant will alert the School Board they need a policy and that’s their responsibility as the governing body,” Fletcher said. “It may not be the policy as presented, but a policy that’s safe, objective and fair is what people want. It’s good for administrators, bus drivers and parents.”