Support grows for expanding Explorer bus service at Brunswick High School
BRUNSWICK — For some high school students, and their parents, extracurricular activities are extra-challenging.
That's because there's no bus to transport students who remain at school after 2:10 p.m. for sports practice or a club meeting.
Now several parents, backed by the high school's interim principal, Pete Dawson, are trying to change that.
Karen Topp, whose daughter is a freshman, wants the Brunswick Explorer busing program to expand its service from the school. Currently, when requested in advance, the Explorer picks up students at 3:05 p.m. and 4:05 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Bus fare is provided through a grant from the Brunswick Children's Collaborative.
The high school, at 116 Maquoit Road, is a mile from the nearest regular Explorer stop, at Parkview Adventist Medical Center.
The Explorer doesn't deliver students to their doorsteps. But its stops – including downtown, at Cook's Corner and at Merrymeeting Plaza – can make for a shorter walk, or an easier drive.
So Topp floated the idea of more frequent Explorer service in a Facebook post earlier this month.
"I know we have a car culture, but this is an equity issue, to say nothing of the environmental issue," she wrote on the page of Brunswick Community United.
In an interview Tuesday, she explained further.
Picking up students at the high school can be difficult or impossible for some parents, she said, and the reliance on automobiles creates air pollution.
"What's more, the kids who get to stay after school are only the ones who have a flexible parent or a car of their own," she said. "That just doesn't seem fair."
Topp's Facebook post received dozens of responses, and she soon met with Dawson to discuss her idea. He suggested surveying the high schoolers to gauge – and maybe increase – their willingness to ride the Explorer.
The School Department formerly offered a late bus service, but it was discontinued in 2006 due to lack of interest, according to a staff memo.
The survey was conducted Tuesday, and Dawson may not have results until next week. With the data, he and Topp hope to persuade Explorer administrators to expand the on-request service, or even to make the high school a regular stop during the school year.
Calls to the Explorer were not immediately returned, but Dawson said he believes the potential for student ridership is large. He pointed out that the high school has 840 students, and about 70 percent of them participate in extracurricular activities that sometimes require stays after class.
"I hope (the survey) indicates interest," Dawson said. "Currently, we're using a lot of gas, and I know it's frustrating for parents to be operating a taxi service."