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Friday, August 29, 2014
‘What’s with our bus route?’
Lawrence district private-school liaison tackles first challenge
Jeffrey Bessen/Herald
The Lawrence School District hired Sarah Weis to serve as a liaison among the private schools, the district’s Transportation Department and Independent Coach Corp., which transports the students.

The first order of business for Sarah Weis, the Lawrence School District’s newly contracted private-school liaison, was to respond to some 1,200 phone messages left by irate parents about busing problems they and their children encountered as a new school year began in the Five Towns.

Weis, a Woodmere resident who has run her own business, said she drew from her customer service experience in returning the parents’ calls, which began on Aug. 30. A few of the messages she didn’t have to return were her own, left with the district before she was hired. “I was one of those parents at the other end of the machine,” said Weis, who began her new job on Sept. 11.

“My first task was dealing with transportation,” she added. “I called everyone back. Many said, ‘Thank you so much,’ as I sympathized with them.”

The problems that Weis and the district’s Transportation Department dealt with ranged from a child’s name being misspelled on a bus card to routes being too long. The district currently buses 4,500 private-school students who attend 70 schools on 170 different routes, according to Superintendent Gary Schall.

“We are unique in that only one other school district transports students to as many different schools as Lawrence,” Schall said, referring to the East Ramapo School District in Spring Valley. “The challenge that we have is to make sure that we are doing it by the book.”

The most common complaint as the school year began was that the bus routes were too long, especially for pre-kindergarten children who were riding on buses for the first time. “My daughter was on the bus for 90 minutes, and it’s a 12- to 15-minute drive to the school she attends,” said Weis, who was initially hired as a consultant for six weeks and paid $7,500 for 30 days of work.

Michael Fabrizio, vice president of the Inwood-based Independent Coach Corp., which provides buses to the Lawrence district, said that September is “always a little confusing,” and that adding nearly 300 pre-K children as passengers compounded the confusion.

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