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Bus startles students who expected to be tardy

Fifty-seven buses were more than 10 minutes late arriving at Boston public schools yesterday, the lowest number since the school year began, school officials said.

About 19 percent of buses arrived after the first bell rang, an improvement during a week that saw one in four buses arriving late, some delivering students to school nearly an hour after classes had begun. But that progress, city and district administrators say, is still not good enough.

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The on-time rate for school buses should be more than 90 percent, according to authorities.

“Maybe I’m an idealist, but I’d like to see 100 percent,’’ said Kim Rice, the School Department’s assistant chief operating officer, who oversees transportation. “I hate the thought of any children being late to school.’’

The creation and implementation of new bus routes appears to be at the root of the problem. To try to fix it, Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s office sent a top aide to oversee school transportation, and School Department administrators started monitoring the four bus yards managed by First Student Inc., the company under contract to provide transportation.

Yesterday, authorities called on First Student to remove four chronically late bus drivers. One of the drivers used to operate Bus 436, which is supposed to travel from Border and Maverick streets in East Boston to Thomas Edison K-8 School in Brighton in 37 minutes, with six stops.

Bus 436 consistently arrived at least 20 minutes after classes began. Yesterday, it arrived five minutes before school started, but with only one-third of the students, an apparent consequence of students conditioned to not expect the bus on time.

“We got through all seven stops with two kids on the bus and the driver said to me: ‘I think I can do this run again and still get us to the Edison on time,’ ’’ said Rice, who rode Bus 436 yesterday morning. “And he did a loop and started over.’’

About 30 students are assigned to the bus, but only 11 caught it during its two runs.

“I certainly appreciate that you came out today and were able to see that the route will work if driven appropriately,’’ Chris Doherty, a parent-advocate at Edison, wrote in an e-mail to Rice.

“But getting angry calls from all the parents whose kids missed the bus because they didn’t know it was actually going to be on time today is just the thing that we are trying to avoid.’’

Rice’s advice for Monday morning: Be outside, because Bus 436 will be on time.

Akilah Johnson can be reached at ajohnson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @akjohnson1922.
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