MANCHESTER, NH – A video posted to social media in Manchester’s first week of school prompted safety concern from hundreds of parents.
The video shows kids riding the school bus home, and it appears so crowded that some kids are sitting in the aisles.
“Way too many kids in one place. Like three to four kids on little seats, some on the floor,” described parent Meredith Tompkins after seeing the clip.
Parents and students tell WBZ overcrowded buses are not a new phenomenon in the city. Senior Ellen German drives now but took the bus in her earlier years of high school. “It was always overcrowded,” she said. “There were three people to a seat. I could never get a seat because I was the last stop on, so it was very difficult for me. A lot of anxiety getting on the bus too because of it being so overcrowded.”
In a statement to WBZ, Superintendent Jennifer Chmiel Gillis wrote, “Student safety is at the core of everything we do. After we received the photo on Wednesday evening, we immediately pulled our team in to gather information. We reiterated expectations for bus ridership, which is a maximum of three students per seat and no students in the aisles, both to the school and to the busing vendor. We are seeing a perfect storm of an increase in ridership among high school students, a shortage of bus drivers, and a new busing vendor serving half of our schools. None of this is ideal nor are we accepting it as the new normal – I want to assure our families we are working feverishly to find solutions.”
Parents were sympathetic – to a point. “I can’t really say much, I work in a veterinary hospital and there’s shortages everywhere, so I get it but it’s kind of not an excuse,” Meredith Tompkins said. “They had all summer to figure it out.”
At school dismissal Friday after the superintendent’s response, teachers on dismissal duty were making sure kids stayed two to a seat. Buses took several trips to pick up and drop off kids to avoid overcrowding.
WBZ reached out to Manchester Transport Authority, which manages about half of the school buses, but did not hear back.