Calling lengthy bus rides and transfers to “unacceptable,” parents of parochial students asked the Hatboro-Horsham School Board Tuesday to spend an extra $200,000 to get their kids home quicker.
One mom, whose sons attend Our Lady of Mercy Catholic School, said her second-grader has been transferring and enduring lengthy bus rides since kindergarten. Now she worries that her younger child, who is also attending the kindergarten through eighth-grade school in Maple Glen, will get home at 4:20 p.m. too.
“It’s not just the transfer,” she said. “It’s a workday for these kids and they’re 8 and 6.”
She was not alone. Parent after parent shared similar frustration at their kids’ late return home from school. Our Lady of Mercy students started their first day of school on Wednesday.
In all, 214 Hatboro and Horsham residents attend the Catholic school, according to Bob Reichert, the district’s director of business affairs. Of those, between 110 and 113 are impacted by the transfer process, which involves buses picking up Our Lady of Mercy students and taking them to Simmons Elementary School for a transfer before transporting them home. The goal, Reichert said, is to have the students’ commutes take 50 minutes or less.
“We are going to study every aspect of it,” Reichert said. “We’re all very sympathetic to the situation. We’re going to put every effort into making this work well and be safe for your kids.”
after a transportation in busing costs for non-public students caused longer-than-expected commutes and delays.
For this year’s transportation dilemma, Reichert said the optimal solution is for Our Lady of Mercy to return to an earlier dismissal time as had been the case prior to the . To transport all students without a transfer, Reichert said bus drivers would need to have students on the bus and be prepared to leave Our Lady of Mercy by 2:45 p.m.
Parents told the board Tuesday that school officials have not responded to requests to allow Hatboro and Horsham students to depart first.
Reichert said the district’s three buses and van offer a “dedicated and direct route home” for about half of the Our Lady of Mercy students, while the other two buses transfer remaining students. Based on the existing dismissal time, he said the district would need to spend $200,000 and contract for four additional buses to ensure those students are given a transfer-free ride home.
Some parents said that is a small price to pay.
“This is completely unacceptable,” said the father of a 9-year-old who has returned home from school at 3:55 p.m. “You’re taking north of $1 million of our money.”
School board president Barbara LaSorsa reminded parents that Tuesday marked the district's first day of school and asked them to be patient.
“Just give us a chance,” she pleaded.
Superintendent Curtis Griffin said if the commute times do not improve the district would look at solution B or C, which could mean reallocating funds to cover the cost of additional buses.
“We’ll come back with a recommendation to the board,” Griffin said.
The earliest the board could approve a reallocation of dollars is at its next meeting on Sept. 18.