State to reimburse Oxford Hills for school buses

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OXFORD — The Maine Department of Education has approved reimbursing Oxford Hills School District $264,000 for the lease/purchase of three school buses, Assistant Superintendent Patrick Hartnett said Thursday.

In November, District Finance and Operations Committees approved leasing a new school bus to replace one damaged beyond repair in an accident in September. The Board of Directors is expected to discuss the lease or purchase of the buses at Monday night’s meeting.

The state has approved a reimbursement of $88,000 each for two leased buses and one bus purchased outright, according to a Department of Education funding report.

The approval of funding for statewide school districts to purchase and/or lease school buses was announced Thursday.

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Superintendent Rick Colpitts said Thursday night that although the district has approved the purchase of three buses for the fiscal year 2014, the Board of Directors will have to decide how many of the approved buses they will put in the budget.

Colpitts said that two buses will be leased over a three- or four-year period, and one will be purchased outright.  

“This has been a practice followed by the district for many years,” Colpitts said. The buses in the fleet have an average age of 12 years, he said. “The district has tried to replace three or four buses each year.”

The state reimburses the district the full amount of the bus purchases or leases through the Essential Programs and Services formula.

In September, eight Oxford Hills School District middle and high school students were treated at Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway for injuries and shock when Bus No. 32 was involved in a head-on collision with a car on Route 119 in Hebron. The driver of the car was seriously injured, and the bus was damaged beyond repair.

The front of the bus was separated from its frame during the impact — a built-in safety feature. School officials have said the school district’s insurance will pay for the first year of the replacement bus’s lease, and the state will reimburse the district for the remainder.

ldixon@sunjournal.com

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