A brand new fleet of yellow school buses lining the parking area of the Monroe terminal on Purdy Hill Road will be taking about 3,600 students to their first day of the new school year on Monday morning.
It will also mark the beginning of All-Star Transportation's first year serving Monroe Public Schools, since placing a winning bid last March.
Gabriella DiBlasi, finance director for Monroe Public Schools, said All-Star worked with the town's former bus company, First Student, in June before officially taking over on July 1.
Mike Lawlor, operations manager for All-Star's Monroe bus terminal, said, "All-Star's happy to be here and we have all brand new buses in the fleet. We're looking forward to a nice, safe start to the school year."
All-Star is owned by the Dufour family, who has a long history in the business. In addition to Monroe, All-Star has terminals in area towns such as New Milford, Newtown, Brookfield, Prospect, Torrington, Seymour and Oxford, according to Lawlor.
Lawlor checked out the fleet of buses on Thursday morning. "They have less than 2,000 miles on them," he said. "They were driven up from Georgia."
All buses are equipped with a security camera and a GPS system, so the company knows where its drivers are at all times. DiBlasi said the bus radios are all tied into emergency dispatch at the Monroe Police Department.
While the buses are new, the vast majority of the drivers are the same, according to Lawlor.
"We have maintained most of the drivers who have been here," he said. "A few left from attrition, but about 95 percent are still here. Most of the drivers are going to be doing the same routes — so the change over is more about how we do things."
The More Things Change ...
DiBlasi has been working closely with Lawlor on the bus routes, which are posted on the Monroe Public Schools Website.
"It's been good. It's been relatively smooth," DiBlasi said of the transition to a new bus company. "The routes have been kept pretty consistent, as well as most of the stops. There's always changes, but the general overall routes stayed close to last year. There were no wholesale revisions."
A few bus numbers have changed, according to DiBlasi, who said those and any route changes are listed on the district website.
She said are reviewed constantly during the year, adding All-Star drivers have already done a few dry runs in preparation for the new school year. Lawlor said his drivers have also undergone hours of safety training.
On Monday, some 25 buses will be transporting about 3,500 public school students and 100 students from St. Jude School on their first day of the new academic year.
DiBlasi said, "We're all very excited for the start of school on Monday, and welcome all of our students and teachers back."