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Montessori bus blows smoke

CARBONDALE – With fits, starts and a little smoke. That’s how things have gone for the bus route partnership between the Ross Montessori School and St. Stephen’s Catholic School since the bus first carried students on Thursday. Three days after the schools started running the joint bus route to transport students to their Carbondale and Glenwood Springs campuses, the Ross Montessori bus sprang an oil leak and briefly caught fire with kids on board in front of the school. The incident occurred Monday at about 3:30 p.m., when Montessori students were boarding the bus to go home. St. Stephen’s students were already on the bus when smoke began coming from the rear of the bus, said Ross Montessori Head-of-School Mark Grice. Flames briefly emanated from the bus, said Carbondale Deputy Fire Chief Carl Smith. An off-duty Eagle County sheriff’s deputy put out the flames with a fire extinguisher, and students were evacuated into the school building. “By the time we got there, the fire was out,” Smith said, describing it as “no big emergency.” The fire was minor and there were no injuries, he said, adding that the oil leak likely caused the fire. After months of trying to get the bus route partnership off the ground, Grice said that coping with the bus’s many problems has been the most frustrating task he’s ever dealt with at Ross Montessori. The school purchased the 1996 Bluebird Cummins diesel 78-passenger bus in September, and it’s been little more than a headache since. The bus has about 150,000 miles on its odometer, and has been in and out of the shop since October, Grice said. The bus was recently approved by a Colorado Department of Education-certified mechanic at Two Rivers Chevrolet in Glenwood Springs, Grice said. “We paid thousands of dollars to have everything checked,” he said. “We had it all certified. Three days into the bus route, it catches fire.” St. Stephen’s older backup bus was certified by the same mechanic, he said, “So we’re a little leery” about using it to run the route. The private school’s principal, Tom Alby, said Tuesday that bus would run St. Stephen’s route Tuesday afternoon and possibly carry some Montessori students.Grice said the Montessori bus was towed to a different mechanic and is expected to be fixed and carrying kids from both schools soon. Alby said he remains confident in the schools’ ability to continue with the partnership.”We’ve had some tremendous frustration getting the whole bus operation going, but we’ve got two entities (that) I think believe in each other and support each other, and it’s truly a win-win,” he said.


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