B y Derek Liebig
Forget the bus; a group of students at Whitehall High School is considered an alternate means of getting to school: by snowmobile.
The Board of Education last week gave the thumbs up to a “Ride a snowmobile to school” day and students and faculty alike will arrive at school Friday morning astride snowmobiles.
Faculty and students are expected to meet and ride as a group onto campus. Parents and other members of the community are invited to partake as well and the Whitehall Railriders snowmobile club is expected to be involved.
Each student that participates is required to be aboard a registered snowmobile and needs proof they had taken a snowmobile safety course. They also need a permission slip signed by their parents or legal guardians.
The idea for the event came after a number of students inquired about the possibility of riding their snowmobiles to school. Officials had previously said no, but as interest continued to grow the possibility of a single day where students could ride to school was broached.
“This is another way to show what our kids can do,” Superintendent Elizabeth Legault said, adding it could be a chance for greater school-community involvement.
Legault said last week the event could be a “carrot” for students who have traditionally struggled in an academic environment. She explained that one student, who struggled academically and socially, had taken it upon himself to organize signups.
“He was enthralled,” Legault said.
Despite the enthusiasm, some board members voiced concerns about the idea.
“My only concern is people aren’t looking for snowmobilers at 7 or 8 in the morning,” President Virginia Rivette said. Board member Samantha Kingsley also questioned the safety of riders crossing busy Route 4.
But Coordinator of Special Education Gregg Chappell, a snowmobiling enthusiast, said the trails are marked with stop signs where they intersect with roadways and any rider who has taken the snowmobiling course knows the proper way to cross roadways.
“It’s the responsibility of the rider to yield to traffic,” he said.
Legault said she consulted state police about the event.
Liability concerns were also raised, although Legault said the school was not liable.
“The liability is the same as a student driving their car or motorcycle to school,” she said.
Mark DeLuca was the only member of the board who voted against the proposal.
Following dismissal on Friday, it’s expected that faculty and students will leave as a group and there is a possibility they take a short ride together before departing for home.