Network manager says no loopholes in school bus operation

Arif Jonas (file photo)
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By Carlena Knight

The Network Manager at the government’s motor pool, yesterday cleared the aired on the issue of CSEC students using the school bus system as an excuse to linger in the city.

During an appearance on Observer AM on Monday, Arif Jonas reiterated that the students are taken directly to their homes or to a point as close as possible to their homes. However, if some students decide to use public transportation after school, school bus authorities have no control over preventing them from doing so.

 “If your child tells you they are catching the school bus and they are eventually coming home on a public bus, that is their choice to get themselves into St John’s; that’s not us taking them to town to get home. We have had students who have gone straight past their village on the bus and say ‘oh I have something to do in town’ and I don’t know if that’s something we ourselves can deal with but I want the parents to understand we are taking the children to their villages,” Jonas said.

He also shrugged off claims that the students who ride the school bus are not complying with the new protocols. In fact, he commended them for their openness and calm demeanor during this pandemic.

While highlighting several issues they continue to face, Jonas said that although communication has been good thus far, there is still room for more dialogue with the school heads as there have been hiccups with the time frame in picking up the CSEC students at the end of the day.

“We have some of the schools [that] have varying times completing the school day, some schools finish 1:30 pm, some at 12 pm, some at 12:30 pm, 12:45pm. So what we are trying to do is get the schools to communicate with us a little bit more. There was actually one school on Friday that we thought we knew would finish at 1:30 pm and then I got a call at 11 am that the school actually finished at 11 am so we had to rush out to that school.”

In terms of the pick up in the mornings, Jonas is continuing to assure parents that the buses begin their runs at 7 am and students who are a bit early and do not see a bus by a certain time should not worry as the time frame is a bit later than in the past. If students are a bit late and miss the bus, or the bus reaches its capacity of 12, another bus will be dispatched.

Another issue currently plaguing the school bus system is the fluctuation of the number of students who attend school daily.

“The numbers are always going to be changing. You don’t find the same students everyday going to and from school at the same time. I hope Mrs Croft, the principal of Antigua Girls’ High School doesn’t mind me calling her, but my communication with her has been amazing. All AGHS students are taken home to their villages and have a set of students who leave at 11 am and another set that leaves at 1:30 pm, but on one day you have children who are going out to Willikies at 11 am tomorrow but those same children may not be going to Willikies until 1:30 pm the next day. Those are the variances you see on a daily basis,” he said.

Jonas further explained that they do not have an issue iwith resources thus far as they have deployed 16 school buses to date. He also mentioned that five new buses are also on the way to ensure that there isn’t a lack of buses in the future if the demand increases.

Parents and other members of the public who have suggestions, concerns or need more information are asked to call the school bus office at 481-4747.

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