District asks that more students to take buses to alleviate traffic issues

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Parents are being asked to change course and have their children take the bus, if possible, to alleviate traffic backups that impacted the opening of school, superintendent Carol Cavanaugh told members of the Hopkinton School Committee on Thursday night.

Traffic has been “our number one problem” during the reopening, Cavanaugh said.

Parents previously had been asked to consider driving their children to school to allow for enough room on buses for social distancing. As a result, Cavanaugh said, many parents stepped up to “graciously help the district by offering to drive their children to school.”

But this well-intentioned decision led to traffic issues. “Now we have the reverse problem,” she noted.

Plenty of space remains on buses to still allow social distancing, she said.

Parents are asked to contact the transportation department if they would like their children to take the bus. This would alleviate the traffic woes, Cavanaugh said.

Cavanaugh asked drivers at Hopkinton High School to pull into parking spots if they want to wait until the exact time the start of school before letting out passengers. This provides more room for cars that are dropping off students and then quickly driving away and keeps traffic moving.

To add “insult to injury,” an 18-wheeler made a wrong turn and ended up affecting already troublesome traffic at Elmwood School during one of the first days, Cavanaugh added.

Other than the traffic problems, school reopening generally went smoothly, Cavanaugh said.

“It was nice seeing kids in the building,” she said. Students seemed “excited” about returning. “This was something familiar to them” that represented “wonderful normalcy,” she added.

Committee chair Amanda Fargiano praised all teachers, staff and students for creating “a smooth start.”

Although the Hopkinton Teachers Association — due to its opposition to livestreaming classes — rejected the district’s proposed memorandum of agreement for the start of the school year, Fargiano noted that the two sides share a common goal.

“We absolutely agree on our passion and our dedication to our students,” she said. Although some discussion on the issue may have been passionate, “it’s that passion that makes our district so phenomenal,” she said.

In other news, the district has obtained two new electric buses through a grant procured by director of finance Susan Rothermich.

Charging stations will be installed in the bus parking lot behind Hopkinton High School to power up the vehicles.

When buses return to the lot at about 4 p.m., a time when community power use tends to be high, energy stored in the batteries of the buses will be sold back to the grid. The buses will be charged in the middle of the night, when community energy use is lower.

The addition of the buses is “kind of ground-breaking,” Rothermich said. Hopkinton will be one of the few school districts in the state to use electric buses.

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