On her first day as an eighth-grader, Maira Barros smiled serenely as she waited for the train at the Fields Corner MBTA station in Dorchester. The 13-year-old was happy to escape the fate of some of her peers: She was riding the T alone, instead of being shadowed by concerned parents.
“I’m feeling good,” Barros said Thursday morning, on her way to the McCormack Middle School. “I feel safe. I have been on the train for a while now.”
Boston Public Schools eighth-graders and their families took to the MBTA with a mix of trepidation and nonchalance on the first day the students were required to ride public transportation instead of traditional yellow school buses as part of a cost-cutting move.
The launch unfolded without any major hitches, school officials said. School buses, meanwhile, largely ran on a normal schedule, though some experienced delays as drivers and families learned routes.
The sight of the buses allayed fears of a replay of last week, when hundreds of students destined for charter schools were stranded when buses failed to show up or ran late. The disruption occurred as the drivers union continued to negotiate a new contract.
On Thursday, the official start of the school year was marked by the usual pomp. Children wore new clothing for the milestone; parents reached out for a final good-luck hug.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh visited the Dorchester Academy and Winthrop Elementary School, asking Winthrop students what they wanted to be when they grow up. The answers: two cops, an artist, three scientists, a soccer player, the School Department said on its Twitter account.
The plan for eighth-graders has garnered much of the attention, raising safety concerns from parents and advocates. Others have worried that the change could lead to attendance problems, or that the thousands of additional riders could overburden the transit system.
Mitzi Sweeney arrived at JFK station with her 13-year-old son, Raymond, on their way to the Murphy K-8 School, determined to obtain a waiver for her son to be allowed to ride the school bus.
“My concern is, it’s not that safe,” she said. “In the past, things have happened.”
Sweeney said she was not against the plan in general — “I guess it’s teaching them responsibility.” But she said the combination of the safety concerns, the length of the trip, and other issues means the yellow bus is the best choice for them.
“What’s going to happen on snow days when the trolley doesn’t work?” she asked.
During the morning trip, MBTA officials were out in force, handing out laminated “Back to School Blitz” cards with links to important websites, Twitter handles, and e-mail accounts for students, parents, teachers, and city officials.
“The MBTA is on top of this,” Superintendent of Subway Training Charles Murphy said as he walked back and forth across Fields Corner station talking to parents who were accompanying their children.
One of the schools that experienced a problem Thursday was the Dever Elementary School in Dorchester, where there might been a discrepancy between the bus assignments at the school and the actual routes, said Lee McGuire, a spokesman for the Boston Public Schools. As a result, some students boarded the wrong buses at the end of the day, he said.
Students on the correct buses were dropped off, and then the buses returned to Dever with the students who were on the incorrect ones. In one of those cases, seven students were taken to a different school, where teachers supervised them until a bus picked them up and returned the children to Dever, according to McGuire.
Every student was supervised, he said, and the school kept in touch with the families involved. In addition, BPS School Police drove three students home, McGuire added.