After spending a season fundraising, building, competing, doing community outreach and finally being honored for all that work with an invitation to the World Championship, the Newton LigerBots may face their biggest challenge yet in getting to St. Louis: buses.
The Newton Schools allows students to use only a select few bus companies because those are the companies that have been vetted. Also, rides are not allowed to extend through the night, so for trips like the one to St. Louis, an added expense comes into play in terms of a night in a hotel. All this is for good reason: the accident in 2001 that took the lives of four Oak Hill Middle School students while on a band trip.
The problem is that all the bus companies are tied up thanks to the Boston Marathon and they don’t have a single bus to let us use. Frankly, most of the companies around New England are booked up. We did find a single bus, but the company isn’t on the Newton Schools’ list and when we asked, we were told “sorry, no can do.”
The LigerBots looked into a number of alternatives, including chartering a plane. None appears to be viable. FIRST has reserved a number of buses, (this would be our most cost-effective solution) but because those drive through the in one single 20 hour drive, our students are not permitted to take them.
So last night a few members of the team showed up at the Newton School Committee meeting to ask for help. Either approve a bus or give us some answer as to how we can get there.
Team members Lily Gomberg and Rachel McVittie spoke very well during open comment, laying out a clear yet passionate plea. It was great to hear the cheering that went up immediately after they spoke from the mass of yellow-clad teachers who were there in large numbers to argue for their contracts. I’m going to leave that story to those who know it better than I.
Immediately after open comment Superintendent David Fleishman gave an open commendation to the LigerBots for their weekend win, something he had apparently been planning to do regardless.
Now we wait and see if we can find a way to get there. In the meantime we continue our fundraising efforts, because once we clear this hurdle we face a financial one.