SHIRLEY -- Ayer parent Debbi Blood addressed last week's Ayer-Shirley School Committee meeting with a request for a late bus for middle and high school students.
Blood said she had initiated a petition, of sorts, on Facebook, which received the support of 108 members of the community.
The problem, according to Blood, is that students who stay after school for extracurricular activities generally do not get out of school before 3:30 or 4 p.m.
"After Page Hilltop, could the bus come here (to the middle school) around 3:45 for pickup?" she asked.
Mock responded that, since Blood had first raised the late-bus issue last year, the School Committee had discussed it many times. One of the problems, he said, is a lack of supervision for students between the time school lets out and the time the late bus arrives. That issue aside, at the middle school, a bus run could be added at no extra cost, he said.
"Are parents thinking these would be taking kids nearer to home?" Mock asked.
Blood responded that she is not 100 percent sure who of the respondents to her petition has kids in any particular school.
Mock said about an hour's time for a bus would cost about $75 for each run, "however many runs per day, per week. So it's not as expensive as we had originally thought."
School Committee member Michele Granger asked Blood if parents would be willing to pay toward a late bus.
"I, personally, would be willing to," responded Blood. "I can't speak for all the parents."
The petition, she explained, simply asked if parents would be in favor of a late bus. With kids' activities such as cheerleading and school plays, she must drive her children everywhere, she said. "Even (a bus) two days a week would help."
Another parent said many of the students who most need the late bus are likely to have families who cannot afford to pay for it.
"And do we want to be a district that limits who can ride the bus?" she asked.
"Teachers have said it would help them if they could have kids stay for extra help. Many kids can't participate because they don't have a way," added Blood.
"If the reason we don't have it is strictly finances, then this would be a way to make it possible," Granger concluded, suggesting that a survey of parents be conducted on the subject.
Regardless of finances, one of the big sticking points is still the lack of supervision, Mock noted.
"For kids done by 3 p.m., we would not want them just hanging around to catch a 4 p.m. bus. I know principals have a concern about that," he said.
"The (late bus) for (after-school) help -- I would really like for us to implement that if we can," Mock concluded. I am not sure we couldn't handle that kind of route for the middle school.
"The other one would be a challenge, a little more so. That could be about $300, so in 30 weeks it is up into several thousands of dollars if four days a week."
"I will take any creative solution anyone has," said Reischutz. "Perhaps we need a usage fee so we would have it."
"I know (middle school principal Rich) McGrath said the library here is open after school," said the other parent in attendance. "At Page Hilltop there have always been volunteers to help. Could parents come in here to supervise for an hour?"
"That may be a possibility," Mock said.
The School Committee said it would take Blood's suggestion under advisement and get back to her.