Bus partnership to create easy riding
It’s quite rare for a public charter school and a private parochial school to become partners. But that’s what Ross Montessori School in Carbondale and St. Stephen’s Catholic School in Glenwood Springs are doing to make it easier for their students to get to school. Beginning soon, the Ross Montessori School bus will pick up and drop off students from both schools, helping them get their more far-flung students to class. “We’re sort of on our own as far as district resources are concerned,” Ross Montessori chief Mark Grice said. “Somehow, St. Stephen’s needed bus service and we needed bus services. We start at 8 (a.m.) and they start at 8:30 (a.m.). We could share the bus and bus driver and service both schools at once.”Ross Montessori’s relatively young, 72-seat, icy conditions-equipped bus will be the primary bus used in the partnership, with St. Stephen’s 1987-vintage 68-seater used as the backup bus. Grice said St. Stephen’s students coming from El Jebel will be able to ride the bus with the Montessori students and be dropped off in Glenwood Springs. Montessori students coming from New Castle will be able to ride the St. Stephen’s bus to Glenwood Springs, then catch the Montessori bus, which will take them to Carbondale. “It’s a win-win for both schools,” said Tom Alby, St. Stephen’s principal, adding that the partnership will allow the schools to pay a bus driver up to $25 per hour instead of the much less competitive salary – $15 per hour – St. Stephen’s was paying its bus drivers prior to the partnership. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to hire a great bus driver,” Grice said. Both schools will split all operating expenses, he said, adding that the Montessori bus should begin transporting St. Stephen’s students in about a week. Both Alby and Grice characterized their new partnership as rare, one that could be perceived as walking the fine line between church and state. “We have to make sure we abide by the separation of church and state, (and demonstrate) that this is an equal partnership, that we’re not subsidizing St. Stephen’s,” Grice said. “It benefits both schools. They’re not trying to convert us, and we’re not trying to change them. In talking with St. Stephen’s, I never got the sense that any of that was part of the equation. Our motives were to provide bus service to both schools.”Alby said the partnership will allow more people south of Glenwood Springs to have access to St. Stephen’s, and it could be the precursor for other similar partnerships between the two schools. The bottom line, he said, is that St. Stephen’s is trying to do what’s best for students, adding that he received “no roadblocks from the archdiocese” when asking for approval of the partnership. Contact Bobby Magill: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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