The Star-Herald

Wintergreen partners with ARTS to provide after-school transportation

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Starting in November, Aroostook Regional Transportation System will provide area children with transportation to Wintergreen Art Center’s weekly after-school program.

With SAD 1 unable to transport students to local after-school programs during the COVID-19 pandemic, Wintergreen has seen a decrease in their usual number of students taking part in classes and have been offering only one class session as a result.

Wintergreen executive director Dottie Hutchins said that the lack of bus transportation proved difficult for parents who could not leave work before the 3 p.m. class start time.

“[We realized that] the best situation is for students to have after-school bus transportation to Wintergreen, with parents picking up their children on their way home from work,” Hutchins said.

Wintergreen digital arts instructor Josh Archer, right, works with Leon Towle, 9, on a project while student Emily McArdle, 14, looks on. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star-Herald)

As part of the new agreement, one ARTS bus will pick up students at the Pine Street and Zippel Elementary schools at 2:30 Monday and Wednesday for students in the grades K-3 Wintergreen class. The bus will come the same time on Tuesday and Thursday, at Zippel and Presque Isle Middle School, for students in the grades 4-8 class. 

The bus can hold up to 11 children who are seated separately or 16 children if there are siblings sitting together. Wintergreen and ARTS are discussing how to potentially transport students from Mapleton Elementary School to Wintergreen’s Aroostook Centre Mall location.

“Our budget only allows for one bus,” Hutchins said. “We typically operate with more children in each class, but this year we’re doing the best we can under the current [pandemic] circumstances.  We also expect some students to arrive by way of private transportation.”

From Nov. 2 to Dec. 17, Wintergreen manager Kara Addington will teach a class on arts and craft projects while Josh Archer will continue digital arts with a superhero theme. The classes will occur simultaneously, with the students utilizing different spaces to maintain social distancing.

ARTS will provide after-school transportation for future Wintergreen class sessions if the pandemic continues to prevent SAD 1 from using their own buses. 

“We feel extremely fortunate to have ARTS as a community partner. Without them, we would be looking at possibly downsizing [the classes] or even suspending our after-school arts program,” Hutchins said. “We take their trust seriously and are very motivated to fulfill Wintergreen’s mission of encouraging creativity in the arts.”

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