by Jonathan Weaver
A new after-school transportation option for Armstrong Junior-Senior High School students and community residents is one resolution away from reality.
Town and Country Transit General Manager Patti Lynn Baker presented the draft option for students to ride a public bus at three times after the normal school day ends.
Town and Country Transit serviced both Kittanning and Ford City secondary students during after-school hours when both facilities were in operation.
Baker’s proposal included three stops at the new school – at 3:45 PM, 4:55 PM and 9:05 PM.
“I think it’s something that would be a benefit for the students,” Baker said.
Students with student identification would be able to ride the bus through the current “Green Line” destinations at the reduced fare of $1.
“When we met with (Director of School Transportation Jon (Fair) , (Academic Principal Michael) Cominos and (Senior High Principal James) Rummel to discuss the times, these were very close to the times they gave us that they would like us there based on when activities actually end at the school,” Baker said.
After the pick-up, students would be driven through Manorville, Ford City and near Lenape Elementary School before back to the Kittanning terminal.
Students would then be able to board another bus, if needed.
Federal regulations require that the buses proceed through the current “Green Line” schedule and not be available to just students. Solicitor Lee Price advised school directors that depending on the time, other fare-paying passengers may already be on the bus when it arrives at the school.
“Most people think of the bus as just our kids, but when (Town and Country Transit offered) this in Kittanning and Ford City, those kids were riding public transportation,” Price said.
Staff members could also utilize the service.
Acting Assistant Superintendent James Gaggini said the only change from what students were used to before would be that buses would proceed on to school property rather than picking up students along street corners.
Price explained Baker had to approach the school directors because, while the school is public property, it is also considered a ‘limited open forum’ according to the law – meaning the school is meant to be open for only educational and recreational purposes.
School Board President Joseph Close thought there was no school safety concern, and that it would be a beneficial resource to students involved in activities.
“Whether they’re driving to that destination or just passing through, it doesn’t change the fact that somebody could drive (to the new school) in their car, too. It’s not as if we’re monitoring every person that goes back the driveway,” Close said. “It (would) provide a service (Town and Country Transit) has done before to potentially save someone a problem.”
To assist potential buses and other motorists along Buffington Drive, school directors also received quotes for center-line painting and 20 LED light poles along Buffington Drive – which School Director Amy Lhote was in-favor of based on her experience after a recent volleyball game.
“Its safety for our kids – it needs to be done,” Lhote said.
Student Board Representative Nathan Goldner, a senior at Armstrong Junior-Senior High, agreed with Lhote that lighting could help drivers see through dense fog.
The three resolutions will be voted on by school directors during Monday’s regular voting meeting. Bus service could begin as soon as the last week of October if approved.
Retired Elementary Teacher Joan Moore, of Ford City added that an access road should also be added since inclement weather, emergencies or fallen utility poles along Buffington Drive could block the only way in or out of the school property.
“These events could occur before, during or at the end of the day, which could cause a problem if no buses or cars would be able to get through,” Moore said. “If an emergency situation arose, the ambulance might not be able to get past this obstruction (either).
“The road to the new school needs to be widened or an alternative road should be considered.”
Close said he did not think there was space available for another road, and recalled that some taxpayers even view the one entrance as a safety feature.