‘It's Frustrating': Saugus School Bus Shortage Eliminates Kids From Routes

Parents like Michelle Couture of Saugus, Massachusetts, are struggling to get their children safely to school and back after being deprioritized for school bus access

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Some parents in Saugus, Massachusetts, are finding it difficult to get their children to school this year because of a bus shortage.

For one mother, the situation has left her without safe and reliable options for her twin boys.

"With my job, I have to make sure that I have that time free, or they have to walk home," said Michelle Couture.

Couture said she's a single mom who works 60 hours a week, making it nearly impossible for her to take her two 15-year-old boys to Saugus High School.

"There 100% will be days that I can't get them," she said.

Couture noted that her boys have had a spot on the school bus since they were 9 years old.

She hoped no child would be left behind. But a school bus shortage at Saugus Public Schools means finding a seat is now more competitive.

The school district issued a notice to parents in July.

It lists five student priority categories. At the top are all K-6 students who live two miles or more from the school, as mandated by law. It's followed by two groups of K-6 kids who live within two miles of the school and who are economically disadvantaged. Then, students in seventh through 12th grade who are facing financial hardship.

But Couture's kids don't check any of those boxes. She lives more than two miles away, but her boys are high school sophomores and aren't considered poor.

"It's frustrating," she said.

Couture said she's looked at Uber and public buses, but the former is too expensive; the latter isn't reliable and would still require her boys to walk.

For now, another family is giving her kids rides to school. But sooner or later, she said, they would have to walk to school and back.

It would take roughly an hour to walk 2.5 miles each way along Route 1.

"It's just danger. It's very unsafe," she said.

Another backstreet route would take several minutes longer.

The school district explained in a statement that they only have access to five buses. It added that a recent consolidation of schools and an influx of families living outside the two-mile radius had increased the number of "mandated riders" and decreased the number of seats on school buses for other children.

"To me, it doesn't matter if they're on time," said Couture. "If they're there and they are safely transported and they are safely being brought back home, that's the ultimate goal. We want them to be able to access their education. Right now, it's on me to get them access to their education, and I don't have the means."

The school district told NBC10 Boston it is hoping they get one additional bus in November, but it is no guarantee.

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