FRAMINGHAM - With troubles stemming for a shortage of bus drivers in the city continuing, Framingham Public Schools (FPS) is set to launch a carpooling service on November 1.
Executive Director of Finance and Operations for the school district Lincoln Lynch made the announcement during the most recent School Committee meeting on October 18. Lynch said families can network with neighbors and others in the community in order to have another option to get students to school. The district will run background checks on those who sign up.
This comes as the city is still only being served by 57 bus drivers—that’s 20 drivers short of the number provided in Framingham’s contract with its partner, NRT Bus Inc. Lynch said that 5,454 students have been assigned to routes this school year, 745 of which are ineligible. With that, he added that Framingham is now down to 157 students who have requested transportation but are not assigned to a bus.
“This is a testament to the dedication of the (FPS) Transportation Department,” Lynch told committee members.
“They’ve done amazing work, worked long hours…But as you can see, we do have a ways to go, so the work doesn’t stop.”
Meanwhile, Committee Chair Jessica Barnhill of District 8 was able to meet with NRT officials prior to the meeting. She said the company still believes that increasing the number of bus drivers by five after the winter break is “attainable,” as the company reportedly has two people testing to become certified drivers by the end of October.
District 4’s Adam Freudberg reiterated his thoughts on a self-described “dual-track approach,” one that sees the city continue to assist NRT in meeting their contracted quotas while also exploring the possibility of alternatives down the line. The latter approach relates to Mayor Charlie Sisitsky’s comments at the October 17 City Council meeting regarding the possibility of bringing bus driving operations in-house.
Freudberg said that the carpooling measure could help in the short-term, but busing is still the preferred method on account of factors like traffic. He added that the process of making a decision on sticking with NRT or moving in a different direction has to begin at some point in the not-so-distant future due to budget cycles.
“I really think that this budget exercise that (this district) is going through is so important for all of the things I mentioned,” Freudberg continued, “but it’s going to take many months to actually do this transition, if it ever happens.”
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