Oak Harbor schools put routes online

Francis Bagarella, transportation director for the Oak Harbor School District, points out the features of one of the new propane buses the district recently acquired. - Photo by Michelle Beahm/Whidbey News-Times
Francis Bagarella, transportation director for the Oak Harbor School District, points out the features of one of the new propane buses the district recently acquired.
— image credit: Photo by Michelle Beahm/Whidbey News-Times

School doesn’t start until Sept. 4, but the transportation department in the Oak Harbor School District is already really busy.

With registration for schools officially underway, the transportation department now has to build bus routes and make sure every child who will be riding the bus is in the system so they can make sure they get everyone.

This year, OHSD is launching a tool that will allow parents to look up bus routes and stop times online.

“I’m excited about it,” said Francis Bagarella, director of transportation. “I think as people use it, they’re going to be more and more excited about it.”

This tool, accessible on the district’s website under the “Families” tab, will enable parents to type in their address to discover their children’s route and the times the bus should reach their stop in the morning and afternoon.

“It should come up with a bus stop,” Bagarella said. “If it doesn’t, let me know.”

The online tool has been launched, but not every route is set yet, so not all the route information is available. Bagarella said they plan to officially launch the program just before Labor Day weekend.

“We know it’s not 100 percent perfect, we still got to do some tweaking to it,” Bagarella said.

“We’re always looking for feedback to how we can do it better.”

Because this is a brand new program using a new system, there might be a few glitches, but Bagarella said that with any feedback, positive or negative, they can work to improve things.

The tool also allows parents to sign up for emergency notifications, such as changes to the route because of snow. Some regular stops wouldn’t be safely accessible for buses in the snow, so they have alternate stops for when that is an issue.

There is also an email option, for when parents have questions or concerns about the tool.

Parents are always welcome to call or drop by the department, Bagarella said, but in the first couple weeks of school, they’re really busy, and with only three people to answer the phones, he would prefer parents use the email option.

He said they’d respond within 24 hours, either to let the parents know of the solution, or to tell them it might take a few days and why, depending on the complexity of the issue.

“If we’re just adding another student to a stop, it really doesn’t change the bus time,” he said, “but say we have to add a new stop. Well, that causes a domino affect and we have to let other parents know.”

Bagarella said that anyone entitled to bussing to school, which, according to state law, is outside of a one-mile radius around the school, should have a bus stop.

Bagarella also said that if there’s room on the bus, he would be happy to try and let a student living within that one-mile radius, onto the bus.

“What I’ve always instructed the drivers to do, and this is very important: we don’t turn the kids away,” Bagarella said. “If they’re entitled to ride the bus, no problem. If they’re a walker, it’s on a space available, because I have to account for all the kids eligible to ride, they have priority.

“We want to make sure the kids get on the bus and they get safely to where they’re going. We want to make it an enjoyable ride for everybody.”

For information, call the transportation department at 360-279-5570, or email the department through the the tool.

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