Woodford could use Pownal buses for field trips

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WOODFORD — Woodford Hollow Elementary School is considering renting Pownal Elementary School's buses for field trips.

Principal Sandy Foster said on Wednesday that she had been in conversations with Pownal School Board Chairwoman Cindy Brownell about the possibility. Woodford, like the other schools in the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union, contracts with Dufour Tours of Williamstown for transportation, but the situation, said Foster, is not ideal.

Dufour, she said, requires all students to be back at the school by 1:30 p.m., she said, so that the buses can be back in time to pick up students at Mount Anthony Union Middle and High Schools. "That limits our time at museums and other places we visit," she said, noting that many don't even open until 10 a.m.

The Pownal School Board will discuss the potential arrangement at their next board meeting on Sept. 20. Pownal previously used its fleet of buses for all of its transportation until the end of the 2016 school year, when the Agency of Education forced the board to join the rest of the SVSU in its contract with Dufour. Pownal attempted multiple times to appeal the decision, citing their drivers familiarity with the children and the community, ease of communication between the drivers, some of whom were paraeducators at the school, and the principal, and stable costs as reasons to keep the buses in operation.

Since then, the school has kept the buses for its own field trips, although the board announced in June their intentions to sell three of the five buses. "The law is, and rules are," said Brownell at that time. "Even though they're made to be broken, and we tried to break them and we couldn't. But we'll do our darndest to not break the promise to these children in Pownal that they will always be able to go on field trips."

SVSU Superintendent Jim Culkeen said that there were questions about drivers and how much notice would be required that will need to be answered if Pownal is to rent out its buses to other districts, but he said that if that was a road the Pownal School Board wished to go down, the SU would support them.

Reach staff writer Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122 or @DerekCarsonBB

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