Few problems reported with start of Westport's new school year

The first day of classes for Westport public schools in the new school year Monday went off without a glitch, according to Superintendent of Schools Elliot Landon.

Landon, at the Monday night Board of Education meeting, called the start of the 2014-15 academic year "really, really good."

He said all he saw were "smiley faces," especially on kindergartners faces. But, he added, there were "unhappy faces" on some parents because "one, two or more" of the school buses were either "late picking up students or late dropping them off." Landon said this "often happens in the start of a new year."

"We will get better until it's perfect," he said.

As for last month's abrupt cancellation of the bus service taking students to after-school programs, "no problems have been reported to date, although it's still early," according to Dewey Loselle, the town's operations director. The town for years had provided that service, but it was ruled an unauthorized use of funding by the Federal Transportation Administration.

"The fortunate thing is that most of the after-school programs don't actually start until about the second week of September," Loselle added. "So we have a little reprieve and still have a little time in which the FTA will hopefully review our exemption request and give us a favorable ruling. That is why we are pushing so hard and trying to move things along as quickly as possible."

The only after-school program that resumed Monday was the one sponsored by Earthplace, he said.

"Earthplace, in order to be able to deal with this situation in the short term while awaiting the federal response to the exemption, has rented a 14-passenger van to go to the different schools and pick up their participants." Loselle said. "The Earthplace program is mostly K-5 and functions as kind of an extended-day program for working parents so it needed to start right away."

Landon noted that the after-school transportation has never been the responsibility of school officials.