Students at Rooftop Elementary School were accompanied by an unusual presence on one of the school's two morning buses this month: their principal.
On Sept. 4, Principal Jeff Slater-Cote rode bus No. 612 along the 2A route — which picks up children from four stops in the Bayview — to investigate the vehicle's chronic tardiness since the beginning of the school year Aug. 18. The bus reportedly arrived at school 25 minutes late, at 8:15 a.m., the day Slater-Cote rode it.
“I wanted to get a firsthand look at what has been contributing to the bus's late arrival,” Slater-Cote wrote in last week's school newsletter. “The issue stemmed from the bus traveling from its last pickup and getting to the school (6.4 miles in morning traffic!).”
Consequently, the district announced that it will pick up students 10 minutes earlier at each stop, effective today. A paraprofessional who rides the bus with students each morning alerted parents to the change this past week, said Heidi Anderson, a spokeswoman for San Francisco Unified School District.
“Rooftop and transportation [services] have known this was problematic since the first day of school this year,” Anderson said. “They've been working closely each day to try to adjust the route and make other improvements.”
Rooftop has two campuses in the Twin Peaks area, one for elementary students and the other for middle schoolers, and the buses serve both locations.
Bus tardiness has been an issue for years along that route, said Christina Feliciana, whose first- and third-grade daughters attend Rooftop and take bus No. 612 most mornings. In the past, adjustments to the route alleviated the tardiness temporarily, yet the bus would ultimately “get into another pattern of … being late again,” she said.
“This is something we've experienced the whole time we've been at the school,” Feliciana said. “It really puts the kids [who arrive late] at a disadvantage.”
Feliciana said in previous years that if the bus arrived late to pick up her daughters, she would instead drive them to school, though she emphasized that not all families in the Bayview have that option. Her tipping point came this school year when she discovered the bus would pick up her children on time, but arrive at school nearly a half-hour late.
That prompted her to start an online petition to alert district officials to the problem, which she launched Aug. 29. The petition garnered 113 supporters as of Thursday.
Board of Education President Sandra Lee Fewer, one of the recipients of the petition, said she immediately contacted the deputy superintendent upon learning of the bus' tardiness.
“We agree with the parents of the Rooftop community that our buses should arrive and depart in a timely matter, and they should not be the cause of loss of any instructional time for a student,” Fewer said. “Our deputy superintendent has looked into it and addressed the issue.”
Fewer also said she planned to request an agenda item at the next Buildings, Grounds and Services Committee meeting, which is today, to discuss hiring a new transportation director for the district, possibly someone with expertise in urban planning with an emphasis on urban transportation.