School Committee Makes ‘Proactive’ Strides Amid NRT Woes: Two Buses Added, Safety Concerns Addressed

Mayor James J. Fiorentini and Superintendent Margaret Marotta rode a Bradford Elementary school bus Sept. 5, 2019. (Courtesy photograph.)

Three weeks into the year, the Haverhill School Committee continues to make “proactive” strides in the wake of transportation woes that marred the Aug. 27 opening of school.

At Thursday night’s meeting, school officials confirmed transportation provider NRT’s CEO John McCarthy will soon add two buses to the Haverhill Public Schools’ fleet in an effort to mitigate delays that continue to plague students across the district. Committee members agreed to allocate approximately $98,000 in surplus funds for the buses, which Assistant Superintendent Michael Pfifferling said is a step in the right direction.

“He’s made shifts within the district to allow some of the buses to get to where they need to be. Not in a reasonable or acceptable amount of time, but in a time that’s less than it was two weeks ago,” Pfifferling said of McCarthy.

Student safety on the buses was also raised during Thursday’s meeting, with Bradford Elementary School parent Megan Schnaible discussing several disciplinary issues. According to the PTO president, students have thrown items out of bus windows, spit and fought during rides, forcing drivers to pull over to address their actions.

“Our children on these buses deserve to be treated so much better than they have been for the first three weeks of school. They deserve to feel safe and cared for, not anxious or fearful on a bus,” Schnaible said.

Pfifferling said the school system currently employs four bus monitors—two for the morning and two for the afternoon commutes, with one vacancy. To better address recent concerns, he’s going to cluster monitors across specific schools and let principals at those schools identify specific routes and buses that need extra attention.

One thing was made clear Thursday: The next time routes or major bus-related changes occur, families will be notified immediately. Mayor James J. Fiorentini and Committee member Scott W. Wood Jr. were among those to urge Superintendent Margaret Marotta to issue emails and robo calls to families ASAP.

While NRT’s McCarthy was not in attendance Thursday night, Fiorentini issued the transportation provider a report card of sorts three weeks into his new job in Haverhill.

“Tonight is not a night to rate NRT—which is good for them, because I’d give them an ‘F,’ Maybe it’s getting better. I’d give them an ‘F-plus!’ Fiorentini said.

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