PEPPERELL -- Parents who had feared that their students would be stranded after the company that provided buses for Pepperell students filed for bankruptcy last month, can rest easy over winter break.

The North Middlesex Regional School District has secured a new bus provider to begin operations on Saturday, according to Superintendent Joan Landers. There will be no interruptions in service.

Dee Bus Service, Inc., of Shirley, was awarded the remainder of the Atlantic Express contract to transport Pepperell students. Atlantic Express will cease all operations nationwide due to a bankruptcy filing.

"It was a priority to make sure we had a deal by today," Landers said last Friday afternoon, when the deal was announced. "I felt that it was important to notify parents of what was taking place for extra-curriculars and also for the opening in January before winter break."

"We wanted to keep things as consistent as possible for our students," she said.

In addition to transporting the more than 1,400 students living in Pepperell to and from district schools in Pepperell and Townsend, the new company will also provide athletic, extra-curricular and late bus service.

The changeover, which began Saturday, will ensure that students traveling to athletic competitions over winter break will not be affected, Landers said.

The new deal will also have no impact on the school budget, as Dee Bus Service agreed to do the work for the same cost that Atlantic Express had.

Landers said that Dee Bus Service has offered jobs to all of the district's current bus drivers, who were informed of the offers in a meeting last Friday morning, although she did not know details of the offers.

Representatives of Dee Bus Service had not returned calls for comment at press time.

The new contract extends through June 30, when Atlantic Express's contract had been expected to end. Bids for a vendor to take over the contract this summer are being accepted until Jan. 8.

Landers said she does not yet know if Dee Bus Service will submit a bid for the longer three-year contract.

Parents were informed of the deal last Friday via an email from the superintendent.

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