The town has won a temporary reprieve allowing the regional transit system to bus children from public schools to after-school activities at private locations.

Federal transportation officials on Friday granted the town an exemption through Dec. 31 allowing the Norwalk Transit District to resume transporting children to programs at private recreational facilities, houses of worship and other locations, First Selectman Jim Marpe announced late Friday.

The transit district has provided transportation to private after-school programs for 30 years, but the Federal Transit Administration ruled the service was an illegal use of federal money and ordered it be halted. The town then applied for an exemption, saying the sudden lack of transportation

It was not immediately certain when after-school transportation would resume. Marpe late Friday said "substantial planning and coordination" must be done, but he indicated transportation might be available by Monday, Sept. 8.

"This is great news for Westport's after-school programs, parents and our participating students," Marpe said in a news release. "I know it will be a great relief to many working families who were worrying how they were going to get their children to the after-school programs without the bus service they have come to rely on."

He stressed, however, that the exemption was only temporary.

"It does give us the time as a community to discuss how to develop a plan for post-Jan. 1."

The federal action left the working parents of about 160 students scrambling to find alternatives, such as car pools.

In its appeal for an exemption, the town had argued that halting after-school transportation on short notice would be disruptive to families and the community.

The Norwalk Transit District sought bids from private contractors, offering $65,000 to pricde transpotrtation from Sep. 2 to Dec. 31 but not no replies.