Last week, a parent of a rising kindergartner in the Kennett Consolidated School District said she was concerned about the amount of time her child would spend on the bus next year.

Parent Allison Malone said that while she is pleased with the kindergarten curriculum and the all-day kindergarten policy, she felt the bus ride was too long for so young a group of children.

"I do think we should recognize the value of providing quality transportation, and of keeping the five-year-olds on one bus for the shortest time possible," she said.

Currently, students at the Mary D. Lang kindergarten center switch buses at their neighborhood schools before being shuttled to the center, according to district business manager Mark Tracy.

The whole process is reversed at the end of the day, he added, with students disembarking the center shuttle and reentering their neighborhood bus for the ride home.

Tracy said that while he has yet to hear outright complaints about the method, he has fielded calls from parents who are concerned that their kindergartners are spending too much time on the bus.

"Logistically, it is a little more complicated than the other students in our district," he said. "Our youngest students are on the bus the longest."

He added that, while the process might not be optimal, it is very similar to the way the district transported students to the New Garden Kindergarten Center in the 1990s.

District transportation coordinator Tom Jenkins said that the district has several measures in place to make sure that students are transported and change buses safely, always under the watchful eye of teachers, drivers and bus aids.

"The safety of our students is always our primary concern," Jenkins said.

Tracy said that the district has considered a number of other options, including adding an entire separate run for the center. However, those options present either additional logistic or economic problems that aren't feasible, he said.

"There's a significant cost that goes with [an additional run] for the district, and for many parents who have to be at work, we would be running a third bus loop through their neighborhoods," Tracy said.

Currently, the district uses 10 to 12 buses for the kindergarten run, and according to Tracy 90 percent of the centers over 330 students are using district transportation on a regular basis.

"Very few parents are picking up and dropping off directly at the center," Tracy said, adding that parents also have the option of dropping their kids off at the school to catch the shuttle - avoiding the first part of the ride altogether.

Tracy said that since this is the first year for the center, any concerns are being addressed and tweaked as they appear and that some issues have already been addressed.

"It's a work in progress. We've already changed the pick-up/drop-off zones, so it's been on-going," he said. "Transportation is one of those areas that is forever evolving and we look at it several times a year."

He added that after the first month or so of runs, the drivers often return with advice on how to address certain issues, and that - other than the length of the ride - the runs to the center have been relatively smooth.

"We can have all the buses arrive at the center within a five minute window."

Tracy said that anyone with suggestions on how to approach the issue is welcome to contact the district.

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