pe-sandymacdonald

The Eastern School District underestimated how long it would take to pick up students in the rural area, says superintendent Sandy MacDonald. ((CBC))

The principal of an eastern P.E.I. school has been fielding daily complaints from parents about the length of school bus rides.

But officials say the situation should improve by next week.

Some students at Montague Intermediate School are spending up to four hours on the bus every day. And some of them are missing classes because their bus arrives late.

Parents say it's unacceptable, and principal Kevin Stonefield agrees.

"I was getting phone calls in the evening at 5:15, 5:20, 5:30, 'My son hasn't arrived home yet,' kind of thing," he said.

"Is it an appropriate amount of time? No. It's nowhere near the right amount of time."

At least one mother has also complained that her son has been about 20 minutes late for class every day since school started.

Stonefield has discussed the matter with Eastern School District officials, who oversee busing.

The district underestimated how long it would take to pick up students throughout the rural area, said superintendent Sandy MacDonald.

"Because it was a completely new route, we said, 'Well, this estimate looks like it'll work,' and we were off — off significantly," he said.

Students on two other routes in the district  — Guernsey Cove and Glen Stewart — have also had long bus rides, said MacDonald.

Some changes to the bus routes will be implemented on Thursday, he said. If the changes don't significantly shorten the bus rides by next week, the district will add another bus, he said.

Eastern School District officials have also been struggling with class sizes this year as schools try to accommodate the hundreds of students who have transferred from the eight schools that have closed.

School board trustees voted to close the schools last spring as a way of dealing with declining enrolments across the eastern half of the province.

At the time, some parents voiced concerns about the effect the decision would have on bus routes.