More buses, drivers to target tardiness

The Sequoia High School District is hoping that two new buses, four new bus drivers and an earlier schedule will help ensure that East Palo Alto students get to Carlmont High School on time.

Angry parents and Carlmont officials told the district board this fall that the bus from East Palo Alto was late 14 out of the first 19 days of school. While some of that was chalked up to bad traffic on U.S. Highway 101, bus-driver shortages and other conflicts were also partly to blame, trustee Gordon Lewin said.

To get all the district's students to their high schools on time requires a minimum of 29 drivers, Chief Business Official Ed Lavigne said. The district had 29 at the beginning of the year, but some were out on worker’s compensation or on other leaves. By Monday, the district will have 33 drivers.

In addition, the drivers are picking up East Palo Alto students 10 minutes earlier, getting them to school by 7:40 a.m. — well before the first bell at 8 a.m., Lavigne said. The district also spent nearly $100,000 on two additionalschool buses.

While those moves are expected to resolve immediate problems, trustees are concerned about deeper issues among the bus-driver staff.

“Eight drivers started calling in sick because they were unhappy with management, and nobody, not even the superintendent, had any idea there was an employee issue,” Lewin said. “There’s a complaint procedure — we felt that was a violation of trust, and it was harmful to students.”

It took some time for the board to learn about the delays because Carlmont was hoping the problems would iron themselves out, said Emily Sarver, president of the high school’s Parent-Teacher-Student Association.

“Normally, at the beginning of school there’s always upheaval in trying to set a schedule. You hope it will even out, but this one didn’t,” Sarver said.

For now, the trustees receive notice each time a bus is late. Only one has arrived behind schedule in the past three weeks, Lewin said.

Neither Carlmont Principal Andrea Jenoff nor Bill Jackson, who manages the student-transportation department for the district, returned calls for comment Wednesday.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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