Ware Selectboard questions school transportation expenses during pandemic

WARE — The Selectboard wants more information before approving school transportation bills that may not reflect actual services rendered during the coronavirus pandemic.

The bills relate to the end of the last school year, after schools across the state were closed in response to COVID-19. The amount is said to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but a specific amount was not available.

The Selectboard voted unanimously to table the matter until its Oct. 20 meeting. In a statement to The Republican on Thursday, Town Manager Stuart Beckley said the Selectboard “asked the School district to lay those numbers out in a spreadsheet.”

“We are not just rubber stamping these bills,” Chairman Alan Whitney said at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I’ve got questions about the bills, and I’ve got a lot of questions about the process,” he said.

School Committee member Chris Desjardins said Tuesday the Selectboard’s approval would allows “bills to be paid when services weren’t rendered … which is typically not allowed.” He said the state has asked all school districts to do this.

“The purpose for that was to keep the bus companies in business,” Desjardins said, “because you take a half a year (of revenue) out of any bus company and they’ll go under, and we’ll have this whole transportation crisis in the state.”

Ware schools are now operating under a hybrid learning model, with students attending classes in person two days a week and remotely the other three days. The district’s 1,144 students are divided into two cohorts to allow adequate social distancing.

State data released Wednesday shows two cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in town over the last two weeks. Ware has had a total of 46 cases since the pandemic began.

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