MILLBURN, NJ -- The Millburn Board of Education is considering revising its policy to allow the use of stand-alone GPS devices on school buses, in its ongoing effort to resolve acute problems in busing since the start of the academic year. The policy committee is recommending that the board approves the change, following multiple reports of bus drivers getting lost on routes over the past couple of months.
The problems came to a head last week when a bus carrying Deerfield Elementary students went “missing” for two hours. A substitute driver lost his way and landed up on Route 24 and drove through Morristown, Livingston and Summit before making it back to Short Hills.
Millburn district Superintendent Dr. Christine Burton said in her update Friday that the district is looking at installing GPS tracking throughout the district so that the transportation department will know where a bus is at any given time. Right now, such tracking devices are only available with the bus companies.
In her remarks at the Board of Education meeting Monday, Dr. Burton said that the administration has met with the bus companies and has reinforced standard operating procedures.
Bus companies are required to alert the district if there is a substitute driver so that there is a chaperone on the bus. In the event of road closures, the district will alert the bus companies so that the routes can be revised.
Bus drivers will be required to alert the companies and the school district immediately during emergencies so that the district can, in turn, alert parents. In the event of any issues, bus drivers must return kids to school so that parents can pick up the students from the respective schools.
The district uses three different bus companies to transport 2,873 students, in addition to the district’s buses. The contracts are awarded, by statute, to the lowest bidder, in a highly regulated bidding process.
The bus companies, which have drawn a lot of ire from town parents, have attributed recent problems to a sudden shortage of bus drivers following recent revisions to licensing requirements that have made it more stringent and expensive to get a Commercial Drivers License.
The district has published a document on frequently asked questions about busing, which notes that while improperly devised routes were a key problem in the early months, transportation is now running close to normal for a majority of the routes following revisions by the district.