If the big yellow school bus doesn’t pass by their houses, kids will have another way to get to school this year besides the bus company of Mom or Dad.
Trusty Transport Services is a new company on Cottage Club Road in Stowe. Owner Jessica Oszajca and her five drivers will pick up kids from their homes and take them to school. They’ll pick them up at the end of the day and drive them home.
Oszajca’s company is already contracted to work with Lamoille South Supervisory Union and Chittenden East Supervisory Union.
“We have transportation needs that are student-specific — for example, to and from separate day programs, and to and from school for students who are homeless and temporarily living beyond the range of our normal bus routes,” said Tracy Wrend, superintendent of Lamoille South Supervisory Union.
That’s where Trusty Transport Services will come in.
It’s just one of the companies Lamoille South Supervisory Union will contract with to take students to specific locations.
Wrend couldn’t say how much Lamoille South has budgeted for these services this year. Last year, Lamoille South spent $719,300 on transportation, including $302,200 in Stowe.
For Oszajca, student-specific transportation is a hole in the school system.
“My mother is a special (education) director, and for years, she’s been talking about how there’s such a need for this type of transportation in the state of Vermont,” Oszajca said. “It’s been a problem for years. Districts have done what they could to get by, but just with the requirements of background checks and security of children and whatnot, things have changed over the years,” and “there really hasn’t been a solution to help with the transportation of students,” Oszajca said.
Oszajca said homeless kids, as well as those who live in rural areas or attend alternative schools, don’t have a way to get to school without relying on their parents, who may not have the time or a vehicle to take them. Last year, Lamoille South spent almost $18,000 from both grant and local funds on transporting homeless students, Wrend said.
Oszajca’s company has a Toyota Prius and five Ford Transit vans, which Oszajca bought new from Lamoille Valley Ford in Hardwick, and as her company grows, she plans to buy more. They all have school bus signs and lighting.
She plans to provide the vehicles for her drivers, as well as pay for their training and Vermont Department of Transportation Type II school bus endorsement.
All drivers go through a full background check through supervisory unions, Oszajca said.
So far, she’s hired five, and she’s looking for more.
Services like Oszajca’s can make it easier for families get their kids to school, says Jim Brochhausen, a member of the Stowe School Board.
Brochhausen lives on Taber Hill Road. The bus route goes only to Cross Road.
“Where I live is roughly six- or seven-tenths of a mile up the hill, but because it is a hill and it has bends and dips and curves, there’s a lot of blind spots, and there’s a lot of traffic that comes in and out of Kirchner Woods, so it has more traffic than just the folks who live along the road. I just don’t like the idea of kids having to walk that distance, with a lot of blind spots, particularly with automobiles,” Brochhausen said.
His children attend Stowe Middle School, and he or his wife drive them. For Brochhausen, who owns a business in Northfield, that’s not a problem, since he’s self-employed, but for “people who might have to be at work at 8 or 9 or something like that,” he can see how finding time to drop off their children in the morning could be a logistics hassle.
“I think any rural community is going to have its logistical problems, particularly in Vermont, when you have both physical barriers like mountains and weather obstacles. It certainly can make transportation more of a challenge than if you were on Long Island,” Brochhausen said.
Wrend said parents of homeless children or children with other special circumstances interested in having their children driven by Trusty Transport Services or another alternative transportation service should get in touch with Lamoille South Supervisory Union at 888-4541.
Updated Aug. 24 to clarify which parents qualify with the school district for alternative transportation services.