MADELINE CLARK
and AMANDA BROOKS

Parents living on Coventry Road and Oak Terrace had reason to celebrate when a school bus pulled up last Friday morning, a sign of good things to come for students who live on those private roads.

The temporary resolution came after parents aired concerns with bus company Mountain Transit’s decision to stop bus service there in light of the town’s new policy to cease plowing them and a handful of other private roads in town.

But as of last week, Colchester School District superintendent Amy Minor, the district and Mountain Transit are considering two long-term solutions. She declined to share details until the plan is fully fleshed out but hopes the issue will be resolved by Nov. 1.

In August, the district informed families of the bus route changes effective on the first day of school.

“When the selectboard made that decision [to not plow private roads], Mountain Transit looked at their routes [and] they discovered … they were serving a number of areas that were never maintained by the town,” town manager Aaron Frank said. “They said, ‘We’re going to follow our policy now.’”

In the past, the school bus drove into each development and picked students up at a safe, congregated stop, Westbury mobile home park resident Jane Richards explained. But after the decision, the bus stopped only on the main road, Severance, which concerned some residents.

Several parents said in the first few weeks of school, they saw motorists drive through the buses’ flashing lights as students were boarding. Residents were also concerned with the speed and volume of traffic along the route, which has a sharp curve near the bus stop. Jane’s husband, Dave, said he witnessed multiple accidents there and feared the stop would put children at risk.

Parents and guardians – the Richards among them – brought their concerns to both the selectboard and school board at their Sept. 25 and Oct. 2 meetings, respectively. But at that point, school board chairman Mike Rogers said the district couldn’t devise a satisfactory and financially feasible solution.

School board member Lindsey Cox affirmed the board makes student safety a priority, but the district faced challenges in altering the bus stop.

“We are a little bit stuck between policies that are being implemented by a private company, with whom we have a contract, and changes that have been made by a town, with whom we don’t have any control over,” she said then.

The district is in its first of a five-year contract with Mountain Transit, according to business and operations manager George Trieb.

Colchester schools and Mountain Transit have discussed the plowing and private roads changes since late winter, according to Minor. With data provided from parents, administration felt it was important to develop an interim solution until permanent arrangements can be made.

“We wanted to be responsive to the needs of our families and our students,” Minor said, adding she spoke with parents who expressed gratitude for the district and Mountain Transit’s responsiveness. “They felt heard, and were really happy that we were able to come to a temporary resolution.

“I’m very confident that we will find a long-term solution,” Minor added. “Extremely confident.”