PARIS — With the resignation of another school bus driver last month, Oxford Hills no longer has transportation to Hebron Station Elementary School or for students from Hebron attending middle school and high school for one of the two Hebron routes.

Hebron Station School Principal D.J. Thorne explained Tuesday, that “One of Hebron’s two school routes was cancelled. It affects about 20 Hebron Station School students who live in the northeast section of town. Families whose children normally ride Bus 32 currently have to coordinate or provide their transportation.”

“There were two days when we had no bus transportation at all in Hebron,” Thorne said, adding that he could not comment on what the factors were. “Parents have been pretty understanding but it has not been easy for anyone. The bus stops are pretty spread out. Walking to school is not an option for them either.”

Thorne said he is not sure how long it will take for the bus route to be restarted or how many middle and high school students are affected. The process to replace a school bus driver includes finger printing and background checks that run through the Maine Department of Education, adding time to fielding applications and interviewing.

“The driver shortage is becoming more acute,” said Superintendent Dr. Monica Henson in her administrative update to the SAD 17 Board of Directors Monday. “Staff substitutes will be able to alleviate some of the problem but they are not able to serve as full-time drivers. The process for becoming licensed is time-consuming. It will be near the end of the fall semester before we have staff subs finished with the current licensing effort and road-ready to drive.”

“We’re talking about staggered start times (for schools) and a couple of other things along those lines,” Director Lew Williams from Hebron, who chairs the district’s operations committee, told the board.

“We will make adjustments to start and end schedules at several schools, beginning after Thanksgiving,” Henson said. “We are already doing this at Harrison and Waterford. But we’re going to change times to enable us to use a group of buses to get kids to school in their buildings at the same time. For example, for the school that starts earliest we would have three or four buses blitz that one route so that we get those kids in the building as fast as we can.

“If we continue with the same start times for all our elementary schools with the lack of drivers available, we won’t get the kids in the building …. it’s causing a hardship for our families. We’re going to try the bus blitz approach. It will mean some kids start earlier and some kids will stay at school later, but we’ll at least be able to transport them.”

Before the meeting started, former Director Barry Patrie of Waterford was honored for his 12 years of service to the Oxford Hills school district. Henson presented him with a plaque and Director Ron Kugell of Oxford, who was board chairman when Patrie was first elected, spoke about his contributions and commitment. Patrie stepped down from the school board last month.

In other business Williams said that the operations committee is working on recommendations for adding portable classrooms to Otisfield Community School, which he expects to present at the board meeting later this month.

Bob Jewell, director from Paris and chair of the Finance Committee reported that the district’s annual audit is underway. He said that Chief Financial Officer Carrie Colley has made progress correcting issues that resulted in CARES Act funds not being approved by the federal government. He added that due to her work SAD 17 has not had to borrow any money from the tax and revenue anticipation loan the board approved on Sept. 7.

Henson told directors that she has contracted former Assistant Superintendent Patrick Hartnett to serve the district as a Title IX investigator for complaints of discrimination. Currently she is the only administrator who is qualified to handle such cases. Hartnett will provide an interim solution and she is working with Drummond Woodsum on the matter while other administrators receive the required training.

Henson invited directors to a legislative breakfast SAD 17 is hosting at the high school on Wednesday morning and distributed a list of topics she expects to be discussed. More than 30 participants are expected, including representatives for U.S. Senators Angus King and Susan Collins.

During the public comment period two residents made statements. One person, whose name was listed as Lydia Breault and did not say which town she is from, read a prepared statement that contained references to different parts of the state’s Constitution. She said that injections are dangerous weapons that people have died from and lumped the use of them to crimes like kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse and attempted murder, which can receive punishments of life imprisonment or a death sentence.

Jason Brine, a parent from Oxford, also spoke, focusing his statements on the rules kids must follow but adults do not. He talked about the frustration of parents with the lack of bus transportation and then referenced drugs.

“There are four shuttle buses over here for ride source, state funded, right?” Brine said. “So why don’t we start asking the state funded – I mean tax-payer funded – buses that are sitting around here doing nothing, or some of the other places around that can do something for the children.”

Brine said there is more that can be done as a community, pointing out that he was providing transportation for multiple kids.

“Let’s all just get this crap together,” he said. “You’re adults, use your brain and let’s try and get something done, okay? I’ll have a good day and you all have a good day, too.”

 

Nicole Carter — 207-780-9077

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