Essex Westford School District administration announced last week that village students K-5 will start receiving bus transportation service as soon as new bus drivers are hired.
“Busing for those eligible outside the walking areas for Hiawatha, Summit, Fleming and ADL students in the district is our top priority,” superintendent Beth Cobb said at last week’s board meeting.
The first grades to receive bus service will be K-5, which will take four bus drivers, Cobb said. She explained this grouping of students is easier to serve due to neighborhood setup and proximity to the schools.
Currently, two bus drivers are in their final CDL testing and should be ready this week; however, bus service for grades K-5 can’t be implemented until two more are available, which won’t happen until at least mid-November, Cobb said.
Full K-8 bus service in the village will most likely be available by late November or early December when they get two more drivers, barring any drivers dropping out of the process before then, she added.
Board member Keeley Schell asked what the two drivers would do in the meantime and hoped they won’t be assigned to purposes other than getting busing to the village.
Cobb said they will ride on buses and learn the routes and procedures, getting extra training to be prepared to drive buses in the village.
“By stating it’s a priority, we’ll be training for that priority,” Cobb assured the board.
The decision to provide bus service in Essex Jct. comes on the heels of discussions at a prior meeting where officials debated how to allocate the new hires: to improving Essex Town service or expanding service to the village.
The board agreed its current transportation policy was too broad to give administration enough guidance and created a transportation subcommittee to discuss possible changes. The group first met the Friday before the last board meeting and planned to meet again on the following Thursday.
Patrick Murray, board member and representative on the subcommittee, wrote in an email to The Essex Reporter that the subcommittee took no official action at those meetings but continued talking with the administration, who answered many lingering questions.
EWSD planned to release a bus service survey to village families this week to gather ridership data to use in planning initial routes and schedules. Cobb said the analyzed data would be compiled and brought back to the board for discussion at its first November meeting.