First Day of School Confusion in Tunkhannock

TUNKHANNOCK, Pa. -- For one school district in Wyoming County, the first day of school didn't go so smoothly. It was the first day of the new school year in Tunkhannock and the first day of the new consolidation of district schools.

The Tunkhannock Area School District voted to close three of its four elementary schools in March of 2017.  This school year is the first for the new consolidated district, and there was some confusion Monday, mainly when it came to transportation.

Students in the Tunkhannock Area School District went back to school a week later than usual this year, and some parents thought that would prevent a mess on the first day.

"The system that they had obviously didn't work. They had all summer to plan this. They knew this was going to happen, and it still was a catastrophe yesterday," Kevin Boyd of Tunkhannock said.

Three of the four elementary schools have closed, so now there is one primary center, one intermediate school, a seventh grade STEM academy, and the high school, all in the borough of Tunkhannock.

"I understand that there's more students now in the school district here in the borough, but the busing route system should be changed," added Boyd.

Some parents say it took more than an hour to get home, even those living a few blocks away.

The superintendent of the Tunkhannock Area School District tells Newswatch 16 they already cut down the time of morning drop-off process by 15 minutes on the second day of school. She says one of the biggest issues Monday afternoon was that it was pouring rain and the bus route maps were disintegrating in teachers' hands while they tried to get students on the correct buses.

"The consolidation, it was rough. They were on it day and night. I think just from this point on, it's going to get easier, and it's going to get better," said Michelle Matthews of Tunkhannock.

Other parents tell Newswatch 16 that they were warned that there were going to be some issues to start. Parents were also notified around 4 p.m. Monday that buses were in route home.

There is a photo being shared on Facebook that shows students sitting in the aisle of the bus. The superintendent says it is something they are looking into, and that they have enough buses for the number of students.

Photo being shared on Facebook of students on Tunkhannock Area school bus.

According to the superintendent of the Tunkhannock Area School District, the bus that was photographed was parked, and that students chose to sit in the aisle while they waited for others to get on the bus.

Superintendent Heather McPherson issued a statement Tuesday afternoon:

"The Tunkhannock Area School District is committed to the safe transport of all students both to and from school each day.  Yesterday was the first day of school and it presented a variety of challenges following the closure of three outlying elementary schools, the opening of a 7th grade STEM academy and grade reconfiguration in every one of our buildings.  Multiple factors at the end of the day, including the weather, created a delay in our dismissal process.  As soon as students were released, we sent out an all call to parents.  We have been told by WNEP 16 that there were concerns about overcrowding on our busses.  I can assure you that none of our runs are over-capacity.   Since I have yet to be contacted directly by any parent who is questioning our numbers, it is difficult to pinpoint when and if an infraction occurred.  We will continue to be vigilant in our efforts.  If anyone has concerns, I encourage them to contact me directly at 836-3111, extension 1000.

"We changed several protocols today, reducing our arrival time by 20 minutes this morning.  Our dismissal time was cut by 25 minutes this afternoon.

"We believe that better is possible, and better is what we are determined to be. "

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