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FRAMINGHAM – When the school year started in September, the Framingham Public School District announced it was short 17 bus drivers from its contracted 77 routes. One month later in October, and the district’s bus driver provider NRT Bus Inc. was still short 17 drivers for 77 routes.

That means, some students who want a seat on a school bus to & from their school are still being told there is no seat available. It also means that some students are regularly showing up after the start of the school day, And the majority of those students showing up late to school live on the South side of the City.

In September, it was estimated about 800 students who wanted a seat on a school bus were told to find other means of transportation to get to and from their school. In the first week of October, that number had dropped to about 650 students are still without a seat, who requested one, said Framingham Public Schools Executive Director of Finance and Operations Lincoln Lynch IV. To put that in perspective, that is roughly the entire student population at both Stapleton Elementary School AND King Elementary School.

The MetroWest Regional Transit Authority is trying to help get those kids to school — and for free – starting with Framingham High students.

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On Thursday afternoon, MetroWest Regional Transit Authority (MWRTA) Manager of Community Relations Jon Fetherston met with with a Framingham High social worker and 8 Framingham High students and explained to them about the MWRTA’s fixed bus route system.

Fetherston trained the students, many of whom spoke Spanish & Portuguese as their first language, how to use the MWRTA app to get a bus to get to Framingham High in the morning and how to use the app to get a bus to go home or get to a job. The service is for free, right now.

The students, many of whom live in the 01702 zip code of the City of Framingham, were told they could go to the banana lot in downtown Framingham by 6:25 a.m. am. and catch the 6:30 a.m. bus that goes by Framingham High as part of its normal route. The bus would drop students off at the high school round 7:05 a.m., plenty of time to catch breakfast before the first bell at 7:20 a.m.

Fetherston said he would be at the bus stop at 6;20 a.m. on Friday to meet any of the students who wanted to use the MWRTA for free to get to school.

Two of the 8 students were there on Friday and used the MWRTA bus to get to Framingham High, said Fetherston.

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On Friday afternoon, Fetherston met students at the MWRTA bus shelter, built by Keefe Tech students, on A street in front of Framingham High.

One of the students used a MWRTA bus that came at 2:11 p.m. to take her to her job at Dunkin Donuts.

Another student used a MWRTA bus — again for free — to get home from school.

Fetherston said the regional bus authority is willing to help more students get to and from Framingham High — and even the other public schools for free.

The MWRTA has been communicating with the Framingham Public School District for weeks trying to help students get to school – on time – for free, as the district struggling with a shortage of bus drivers. Thursday was the first meeting with students. Friday was the first time students used the MWRTA to get to school – on time – for free.

It was a start.

The district hand-picked the 8 kids, who met with Fetherston, but the hope is that any family that reads this SOURCE report, who has a student at Framingham High, and does not have a seat on a yellow school bus, can get to the banana lot in downtown Framingham before 6:25 a.m. and get to school for free.

“We just want to help as many students as possible, get to school on time,” said MWRTA’s Fetherston. “We are trying to offer a solution to the students and families struggling to get to and from school.”

Photos courtesy of MWRTA

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By editor

Susan Petroni is the former editor for SOURCE. She is the founder of the former news site, which as of May 1, 2023, is now a self-publishing community bulletin board. The website no longer has a journalist but a webmaster.