Maine School Administrative District 75 school board members are weighing changes to school bus stops and routes to comply with current transportation policy. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

TOPSHAM — Maine School Administrative District 75’s transportation committee is eyeing school bus route changes for elementary school children that have some parents worried about their children’s safety.

The district’s transportation committee is proposing several changes to its bus routes and stops to fall in line with district policy that hasn’t been in practice.

Under the proposal, kindergartners could be expected to walk up to about five-tenths of a mile to a bus stop, the same distance as other elementary students. Under current policy, kindergartners have a maximum walk of up to about three-tenths of a mile. Most of the changes affect bus routes in Topsham, where four of the districts seven schools are located.

The changes also mean more elementary-age students would have to walk to school or wait at bus stops along more heavily traveled roads.

That worries local daycare provider Karen Raymond, who provides before- and after-school care at her home on Barrows Drive just less than a half-mile from Woodside Elementary School.

“We don’t have sidewalks that go to the school completely,” she said.

Under the proposal, no bus would pick up students on Barrows Drive — where Woodside Elementary is located — or the nearby Barbara, Carolyn, Highland or Wilson streets or on Bickford, Chad, Hanson, Patricia and Williams drives or Western Avenue.

Tracey Dearborn of Topsham lives on Old Tavern Road off Route 24. The bus would no longer travel down her road, instead stopping at a main road, Middlesex Road, where the speed limit is 45 mph near a blind corner with no sidewalks.

Her two children, in second and third grade, have special needs and can be impulsive, not always pay attention to their surroundings.

“These are 6-, 7-, 8-, 9- and 10-year-olds,” she said. “They can’t be left home alone but they’re going to stand at a bus stop most likely alone.”

Superintendent Shawn Chabot said the changes in routes are being proposed after parents two years ago sought an exemption to the policy because they had been allowed for others.

“If we’re going to have a policy, in my mind, we should follow it,” Chabot said. “If we’re not going to follow it or our practice is different than our policy, then we should change our policy.”

The transportation committee, in a recent report, stated it has worked to improve consistency and fairness in transportation services and policies, as well as to reduce the length of bus runs and the number of bus runs “in light of both budget concerns and the shortage of bus drivers.”

Chabot stressed that the transportation director will always have the authority to change bus routes for safety reasons.

“You’re making significant changes that is probably going to create a slight uproar in the community and I think you need to drive those (routes) before you make those decisions,” said Alison Hawkes, a school board member from Harpswell, at a recent meeting. “It’s very important to me as a parent and other parents … it’s not budget, it’s not if you have enough bus drivers. It’s safety, period.”

A forum on the changes is slated for Feb. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at Woodside Elementary School in Topsham.


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