MANSFIELD, Conn. (WTNH) — Classes will resume Thursday for all pre-K through 8th-grade students in Mansfield amid issues with school bus services.
Elementary and middle school children in Mansfield got an unexpected day off Wednesday. There were problems with school bus services on Tuesday, which was the first day of the school year, forcing the district to cancel all pre-K through 8th-grade classes.
Peter Dart, the superintendent of Mansfield Public Schools, said classes were canceled due to “unacceptable issues we saw today [Tuesday] with our bus company’s ability to transport students in a safe and timely manner, including communicating about critical issues.”
“We heard from our neighbor that she and her kids waited for the bus in the morning, and it never came. She never saw one in the morning,” said Sarah Hird, as she shopped for breakfast with her two sons. “I believe they also took the bus home in the afternoon, and it took an extra-long time to get home.”
Hird said she had heard there might be issues on the first day, so she drove her boys to school. Folks around town said some elementary school kids did not get off the afternoon bus until after 6 p.m.
There have been some changes that affected bus routes. Mansfield used to have three elementary schools but has decided to consolidate them down to one. The new building is not done yet, so they have two, with the youngest students going to one, and older students going to the other.
A school spokesperson says Mansfield is still too small a district to have problems this big.
“I think we heard maybe illness was involved, and also the moving from three schools down to one school, but also splitting students over two schools,” Hird said. “We kind of assumed it was a bunch of growing pains.”
There is also a national shortage of bus drivers. M&J is Mansfield’s bus company, and they have a big sign at their lot saying “Drivers Needed.” School officials say they know the issues but wanted more communication.
The superintendent, Peter Dart, met with M&J officials all Wednesday morning working on solutions.
Dart issued the following statement to the Mansfield Public Schools community on Tuesday:
This is Peter Dart, Superintendent of Schools, with an important message regarding school tomorrow. Due to the unacceptable issues we saw today with our bus company’s ability to transport students in a safe and timely manner, including communicating about critical issues, we have made the decision to cancel school tomorrow, Wednesday, September 7th, 2022.
I do not have confidence that our carrier can meet our expectations and minimize travel times for our students. The safety of our students is paramount. Closing tomorrow will allow us to work closely with the bus vendor to resolve the significant issues that occurred today by refining bus routes, ensuring all students have accurate bus assignments, and clarifying communication expectations with Mansfield Public Schools and Families. The issues we saw today and have experienced in the past few weeks have affected both the middle and elementary runs.
Again, there will be no school tomorrow for students Prek through Grade 8 tomorrow. We apologize for the hardship that this will cause our families. We will update families tomorrow with updated bus information. Moving forward, we will continue to advocate what is best for our students and families.
Peter Dart, Superintendent
Larry Barlow, Principal of Mansfield Middle School put out a statement to parents that read, in part: “M&J Bus Company and central office had productive days working on addressing the identified concerns around busing of our students. Quite simply, we are in a better place today [Wednesday].”
Administrators also stated that no one blames the bus drivers for this incident. Officials even referred to them as “heroes”.
The school cancelation did not affect high school students because they attend a regional high school not part of the Mansfield district.
High schoolers still attended school on Wednesday, as the high school is not a part of the Mansfield district.
Drivers will be out driving their routes again on Thursday morning. Although, parents who can drop their kids off are encouraged to do so for a few more days.
News 8 reached out to the bus company for comment on the issue but has yet to receive a response.