When the Kingston City School District opened schools for the 2022-23 school year this week, it did so without buses along nine of its 23 Kingston High School routes, a problem that dismayed Superintendent Paul Padalino. “It’s unacceptable, is what it is,” Padalino said in an interview with Hudson Valley One on Thursday, September 8, one day after the start of the school year.
But by Monday, September 12, the busing issues were mostly resolved, according to Padalino, though some KHS students were still being impacted in the afternoon.
“This morning went very well,” Padalino said that morning. “I don’t want to say anything definitive until we get through the afternoon. In the afternoon, we still have some students who have to take the late bus from Kingston High School, which is that three o’clock bus. And we’re still working on fixes for those routes where the kids are staying for the late bus to make that happen.”
The superintendent added that other bus problems across the district were comparatively minor and about par for the course at the start of a school year.
“The first week of school, buses show up at bus stops early or late, just general stuff that would usually happen,” Padalino said. “Not necessarily the problem we had last week with the high school. That was not a standard wrinkle, obviously.”
The affected routes were #3 (Linderman Ave. at Navara St. through Washington Ave. at Janet St.); #9 (Sawkill Rd. at Lem Boice Ln. through Sawkill Rd. at Wintergreen Hill Rd.; #11 (Rte. 28 at Forest Hill Dr. through Lucas Ave. at Green St.); #14 (Lucas Ave. at Conifer Ln. through Lucas Ave. at Canimi Way); #20 (Main St. at Oakwood Dr. through Rte. 213 at Buzdygan Ct.); #21 (Rte. 32 at Beyersdorfer Rd. and Whiteport Rd. through Taylor St. at Linwood Ct.); #23 (Hurley Ave. at Fairway Ave. through Russell Rd. at Schoolhouse Rd.); #24 (Grist Mill Rd. at Coutant Rd. through Rte. 213 at Lake Shore Dr.); and #33 (Zandhoek Rd. at Foertner St. and Hillside Ave. through Wilbur Ave. at Gilead St.)
Padalino said the district first learned of the bus staffing issues on Tuesday afternoon September 6, and had been working ever since to try and get things running as normal.
“Then we need to look at the ‘why,’” Padalino said. “I’m still not 100 percent sure of the ‘why’ here. I want to fix the problem, and then I’m going to investigate the ‘why.’”
Padalino said he didn’t want to put the blame on the three bus companies the district contacts with for transportation.
“It’s our responsibility and we are accountable for it,” Padalino said, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused various transportation issues for some time. “We’ve been dealing with complications around bus drivers and bus companies for three years now, and we need to have plans A, B, C, and D in place for our students, and we failed to do that and it’s not okay. We’re going to be making sure that we do that now.”
Padalino said that while around 250 students live along the impacted routes, it was unclear how many were unable to get to school due to the unexpected loss of service because ridership is less predictable for older students.
“One of the things is there is inconsistent ridership in on those buses,” Padalino said. “It’s possible that students weren’t going to get on that bus anyway, that they got ride from a friend.”
The superintendent added that Kingston High School is still unsure how many juniors and seniors will request parking passes, and how many of those were on the impacted bus routes.
“Those are kind of the things we’re trying to figure out,” Padalino said, adding that no student who was late or absent due to an inability to get to school.
“We’re not going to blame students for our failure to get them to school,” he said.
Padalino said on September 8 that the district expected to have solutions in place by the following Monday, so the first full week of school wouldn’t be impacted. He added that no bus routes for elementary and middle schools were canceled the week after Labor Day, which could have made a bad situation even worse.
“High school kids drive, high school kids ride with friends, so it’s not quite as impactful as it would be with smaller children,” Padalino said. “But at the end of the day, it’s our responsibility to have our transportation lined up and to do what we’re supposed to do for our students.