Panel suggests after-school bus routes be added to school district's contract
Piggy-backing on the town's school bus contract to supply shuttle buses serving some of the local after-school programs was an option discussed Monday during a meeting of the Advisory Committee for After-school Bus Transportation.
The committee, established by First Selectman Jim Marpe, is examining the feasibility of re-structuring the shuttle service to comply with the federal government's criteria.
Shuttle-bus service for after-school programs, attended by about 160 children, was abruptly cut when the Federal Transit Administration in August determined the service -- offered by the town for several decades and provided by the Westport Transit District -- was not compliant with federal regulations. It later was restored after a waiver was granted, but only temporarily until Jan. 1.
The option to piggy-back on the Board of Education's bus contract for the next school year was proposed by Dewey Loselle, the town's operations director and co-chairman of the advisory committee,
He told those attending the afternoon meeting in Town Hall, mainly town and transit officials and committee members, that it would be "a separate module" for "three small school buses" that would replicate the routes" provided by Westport Transit.
He said it could be bid out as part of the school district's bus package. He said despite the need for an alternative by Jan. 1, this option, if negotiated, could not start until the beginning of the next school year. This would depend on whether the bus provider, Dattco, would be interested and if the cost was right.
Karen Beitel, director of education at Temple Israel, said the option "absolutely appeals to me ... I feel confident I speak on behalf of the parents."
Representative Town Meeting member Clarissa Moore, District 4, said she felt that providing the shuttle service for a small number of students could be considered "unfair' and "biased." She asked how the groups who are provided with the after-school shuttles were selected. "Can others come in?" she asked.
Loselle said interest by other groups interested in after-school transportation should be surveyed. In the meantime, he said the group would continue to work toward getting the current waiver extended until the end of the school year.
But Moore questioned how they would go about this when the FTA said what the town had been doing was "illegal."
"I've been torn sometime, too," said Loselle, who added it wasn't illegal, but "non-compliant."
"Exceptions are allowed," he said.
The committee is expected to report its findings and recommendations to Marpe by mid-November.