HUDSON – Members of the Mulready Elementary School community had strong opinions about the topic of potential bus storage at the school at the School Committee meeting on Jan. 9.
At the Dec. 12 meeting, Superintendent Brian Reagan shared with the School Committee the possibility of bus storage at Mulready Elementary School, as the Department of Public Works’ plans for its new facility would not include the current storage space being used by the Hudson Public Schools.
Reagan reported that there was no town-owned property appropriate for bus storage. After thorough research in the summer, the only property under the care of the school district that would provide a solution was determined to be Mulready.
He said at the meeting that if the district needed to park buses outside of Hudson, there could be up to a $250,000 charge in the transportation contract, as estimated by the current bus company.
He added, “And that’s just putting the buses in Marlborough.”
At that meeting, no formal proposals or decisions were made regarding using the Mulready school lot for this purpose, but Reagan said the administrators would keep the School Committee updated about the topic. He did note that the traffic pattern at the school would have to be rethought if this occurred.
On Jan. 9, Mulready parent Sara Frost said she found it “hard to believe” that there were no other options considering there was a home for them currently.
“I hope that the School Committee will work with the DPW and the town to come up with an alternative solution,” said Frost.
She noted that there could be negative impacts by having buses stored at Mulready, such as taking space away from a school that is already packed for space and removing a buffer from the transfer station. She was also concerned about the condition of the road around Mulready if large vehicles are stored there.
“It really seems a bit like a Band-aid solution,” said Frost.
Parent Michelle Peterson said that in the Mulready school community, people look for solutions and advocate for themselves. She called it “the smallest, but the mightiest school” that needs the town to weigh out all of the possible options for bus storage.
She believed a storage lot for the buses should have been considered in the plans for the new DPW facility and that if buses are stored at Mulready, the youngest members of the special needs and autism programs at the school will be impacted by the fact large vehicles will be moved and stored near their school.
Of the safety concern, she added, “They lack simple parking lot awareness.”
Peterson also raised the issue of increased diesel fumes from the buses affecting air quality. She asked the School Committee to advocate for the school and its students.
Reagan addressed the issue in his report that evening.
He said that if his prior report on Dec. 12 led people to believe that there was a recommendation by his office to have buses stored at Mulready School or a decision had been made to that effect, that was not his intent.
“What I was intending on doing on the 12th was to notify the committee in a formal setting that after about six months of looking at the issue, we had identified only one property that we are in control of,” Reagan said.
He said there isn’t another school property to explore for a bus lot, and he has been told by the town there is no other town property the district would be able to use. The DPW project has been approved, and the schools would have to find another place for bus storage after 20 years there.
“I share a lot of the frustrations that were raised tonight of how we got here,” said Reagan.
Currently, the school district is out to bid for a new transportation contract, and the cost to store buses will be a part of the process. They already could see transportation costs escalating, said Reagan, with an expected $800,000 increase.
There could be an additional cost for off-site bus storage, even to park them in Marlborough, he noted.
He said of the Mulready school option, “If we were facing that as an option, I would envision us having multiple discussions with the School Committee, with the Mulready community.”
Reagan said they are not “there yet” as far as considering the Mulready school as a storage option.
He said, “We would do that … after we’ve explored every option.”
School Committee member Steven Sharek asked how long they have to be able to store the buses at the current location, and Reagan noted the timeline is early spring around March or April.
“We have a solution that will get us to the end of January,” Reagan said.
In addition, he said they would be able to park the buses with the current contract with a fee that was not insurmountable. He noted they were not worried about this year’s bus storage.
In an email on Jan. 11, Reagan said, “The most important point I’d like to make is that the Mulready property is the only school-controlled space we have that we could use for bus storage. It is not my recommendation to use that property at this time, but if we find ourselves in the position to need to create bus storage on school property, we will engage with the Mulready community as we plan.”
He noted they would know more once the new transportation contract was settled in the months ahead.