School Board backs new buses, mountain bike trips for kids

ARLINGTON – With a nod to the community’s bicycling culture and network of trails, one school is hoping to ride into the new school year with the Trips For Kids – Arlington Bike Program at Weston High School.

School Board members heard a briefing on the proposed classroom-on-wheels program Monday that would combine mountain biking with lessons in self-esteem, environmental awareness, camaraderie, resiliency and not giving up.

Interested students guided by ride leaders would use the trail system around Arlington Municipal Airport that connects with Weston.

“Our goal is to forge authentic relationships with the students we serve, in a non-classroom setting, with the intent of helping disrupt destructive cycles and narratives in their lives,” Weston prinicipal Andrea Dixon-Hundredmark said.

A state education grant and donations from Trips for Kids National would cover startup costs for the program, which should run about $9,000 based on a draft budget built on grants and in-kind donations.

Dixon-Hundredmark said costs would be higher in the first few years to purchase up to as many as 30 mountain bikes of various sizes, but will level off to meeting basics such as insurance, tune-ups, first-aid kits, T-shirts and food.

Weston officials would send out an invitation to students after school starts.

Trips for Kids-Arlington is modeled on a nonprofit program developed in Marin County, California that has served over 230,000 kids across the U.S. and Canada since 1988 by offering mountain bike outings, environmental education and the freedom to explore the natural world.

In six-wheeled news, the school board authorized $719,598 to buy new school buses to replace five old ones that are coming off the state’s depreciation schedule.

The new standard Type D buses will be paid for through the district’s Transportation Vehicle Fund.

Brian Lewis, executive director of Operations, said the district’s bus fleet continues to age, and the new ones can be paid for with cash rather than paying for them over time and taking on more debt.

The district issued bonds in March 2018 to borrow $1.2 million to buy 10 new buses. Officials preferred other financing options, but too many buses are on the district’s depreciation schedule and are not generating enough revenue via sources such as the state to support sustainable replacement.

In other action:

* The board renewed a cooperative agreement with mental health care provider Kristina Coyle. She is one of two counselors who have provided mental health support for students at two elementary schools at no cost, as well as staff and families. District officials said the need for mental health services in the schools has increased. Coyle works under contract with the district and Public Hospital District No. 3 in Arlington.

* Accepted an $8,000 donation from the Stillaguamish Tribe for the Arlington High School Physical Education Department to buy new cages for the weight room to replace old ones.