C-R looks for bus route solutions


By Jim Poole

Cobleskill-Richmondville is trying to shorten its bus runs, but the job’s not easy.
Parents at last Monday’s school board meeting complained about exceptionally long rides for their children, especially those going to Ryder and Radez Elementary Schools.
Hiring more drivers and further examining bus routes are two strategies C-R will pursue.
The shortage of bus drivers––a national problem––and staggered openings of the elementary and middle and high schools are key issues, Superintendent Carl Mummenthey said several days after Monday’s meeting.
Most kids are on a bus for less than an hour, “but some are longer and some are shorter,” Mr. Mummenthey said.
The elementary schools open at 7:45, but the high school and middle school open about 9; the staggered openings mean double runs for drivers.
And there are fewer drivers.
“We could easily fill five or six vacancies,” Mr. Mummenthey said. “If we had five or six more drivers, we’d have more routes and they’d be shorter.”
Part of the issue is the shortage of truck drivers nationally. Private companies can offer more money to fill positions, while schools are locked into contractual pay.
“Wages are drawing drivers away from school bus driving,” Mr. Mummenthey said.
“Our drivers start at $18 to $22 per hour. That’s competitive, but the drivers aren’t there.”
Parents also criticized C-R’s transfer buses that take some students from one school to another to ride another bus. Parents argued that to get to its destination, the transfer buses sometimes drive by a student’s home without stopping.
“If the transfer bus makes three stops for three kids, then everyone at Ryder and everyone at Radez is later,” Mr. Mummenthey said.
Complicating C-R’s routes is that the district is large geographically––including all or parts of 16 towns––and there are three campuses.
Another factor is ridership. Many students learned remotely at home last year, but with no remote learning, ridership is up this year, leading to more stops and longer time on buses.
C-R will step up driver recruitment and also have an independent travel consultant study bus routes.
C-R has reviewed routes, but “we’d like an independent view,” Mr. Mummenthey said.
Responding to parents’ concerns, he was sympathetic.
“I get it. We are not satisfied either,” Mr. Mummenthey said. “I feel their pain. I don’t want the public to feel we’re indifferent.”