Valley Unified students have new travel bus that also promotes area
ST. JOHN VALLEY, Maine — Students in three Valley school districts now have access to a new 2018 BlueBird transit bus for school related field trips thanks to the efforts of the Valley Unified Regional Service Center which successfully acquired federal grant money to buy the bus.
Students in Maine School Administrative District No. 27, Maine School Administrative District No. 33, and the Madawaska School District will use the bus on school trips for which the district previously chartered buses from private bus companies.
Residents from any of the member communities of the three districts also have an opportunity to ride the bus, free of charge, to check out other regional school facilities downstate later this month.
The three Valley school districts are in the process of securing up to $100 million from the state to build a pilot consolidated school that would combine high schools, integrate technical and career training, and include some post-secondary education aspects.
The Maine Department of Education disbursed more than $715,000 in federal grant money from the Fund for the Efficient Delivery of Educational Services (FEDES)
to Valley Unified.
The FEDES grant is completely federally funded, with no local or state tax money involved.
“In that grant, the Valley Unified Bus was one of several projects that was funded,” said Ben Sirois, SAD 27 superintendent and Valley Unified Board executive director. “The entire grant amount was not specifically for the bus. Out of the total grant award, about $215,000 has gone toward the purchase of the bus, the bus wrap with local images from Paul Cyr Photography, snow tires, a GPS unit, a bus camera system, a bus Wifi system, and a two-way digital/analog radio system.”
The bus also features an air ride suspension, 46 leather-bucket seats, air conditioning, 6 LCD video monitors with a DVD system, and USB charging ports under each seat, according to Sirois.
“Everything for this bus was fully funded by the FEDES grant,” he said.
Peter Saucier, the director of transportation for SAD 27, was instrumental in securing the new bus. He said that the grant effort was the result of teamwork by Sirois, as well as SAD 33 Superintendent Lisa Bernier and Madawaska Superintendent Gisele Dionne.
“I’ve worked 23 years in the district and I’ve never felt the vibes I feel today in terms of the steps we’re taking toward educating our students,” Saucier said, adding his support to the Valley Unified Regional High School effort. “This is why we are able to offer this bus to our students; no individual school can offer this.”
Boulevard Graphix out of Limestone and Presque Isle decorated the outside of the bus with images Aroostook County photographer Paul Cyr donated, which depict scenes from communities in each of the three Valley Unified districts. On the back of the bus is the image of an Acadian flag.
The bus soon will embark on a journey downstate to check out some other regional high schools and facilities. Valley residents are invited to attend, free of charge.
“Anyone in the MSAD 27, MSAD 33, or Madawaska Schools areas interested in attending a high school tour to Hampden Academy, the United Technology Center in Bangor, and the new Sanford High School on Nov. 15 and 16 is asked to contact their respective superintendent of schools to secure a seat on the bus,” Sirois said. “This trip also is funded by the FEDES grant and it will provide the tour free to all who attend. This will cover the costs of transportation, meals, and lodging.”