School district makes changes to bus routes (Sept., 11, 2008)

Sept. 11, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

During the first few weeks of the school year, the Williston School District has been busy re-tooling bus routes throughout the town. District Principal Walter Nardelli said the routes have been modified to make them more efficient and timely for students.

The latest bus routes have taken effect this week and Nardelli said he doesn’t expect any major changes to the routes in the near future.

Demand for busses this year has been higher and bus seats have been “packed” with riders, Nardelli noted, although he said he didn’t have numbers compiled as of yet.

“Ridership is up this year and I think it’s due to the high gas prices,” he said.


    Observer photo by Greg Duggan
A bus pulls into the Allen Brook School parking lot last month on the first day of school. The school district has spent the opening weeks of the school year tinkering with bus routes.

And while gas has dropped from $4 a gallon in recent weeks, the current high prices will most likely put a strain on the school district budget, Nardelli said. He said he has not seen all the budget reports yet, but expects fuel costs to be above what was allocated in the budget. The hope is that a different item in the budget comes under cost so the numbers would even out, he said.

“Whatever we have in the budget is what we’ve got to work with,” Nardelli said.

This is the first year the school district has taken charge of its bus system after voters approved a split from the Champlain Valley Union High School bus system in March. The split allowed the district to extend the school day for more academic instruction.

Nardelli said that under the new system, some busses were overfull and routes were taking too long for students to get to the schools. As a result, the district added another route in the southern part of town. He said the goal is to keep all routes under 50 minutes, as well as minimize the number of stops along the route. Parents have been giving advice as to what the best routes might be, all of which has been helpful in the decision making process, Nardelli said.

“We hope they keep telling us ideas, because it helps us immensely,” Nardelli said.

Nardelli added bus routes could be “re-evaluated” if fuel costs dropped dramatically throughout the year and ridership declines.