SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 20, 2013

Peabody school board considers setting up a bus for prom

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — PEABODY — Nobody spells cool “b-u-s.”

But members of this city’s school board are hoping to find a way to make the bus cool enough that kids will take it to the prom.

Member Ed Charest proposed the idea at the most recent meeting. “I know a lot of the kids will not be for it,” he conceded. But citing the need for safety, he urged, “We could get a decent deal for the kids. It’s something we need to look at.”

Such programs already exist in other school systems, he pointed out.

The committee agreed to study the idea. Speaking afterward, member Dave McGeney declared, “It’s a good idea.” He seemed to invoke the fears that so many have of deadly prom night accidents and mishaps, viewing this as a way to prevent use of alcohol or drugs.

“We’ve got some really great kids,” he said, noting the laudatory messages that come back whenever Peabody High students make visits to other places. “But even really great kids can have a moment of poor judgment. And anything that makes the kids safer on prom night is a good thing.”

On the other hand, McGeney said, “If you’re talking about getting a big yellow school bus, I assume they’ll hate it.” Worse yet, they’re likely to avoid it. Instead, he proposes, “Make it a coach bus.”

In that case, he said, prom-goers should be subject to some supervision.

Colleague Brandi Carpenter was more skeptical about coaxing young people onto the bus. “I don’t know if the kids would use it,” she said. “... I’d be all for it if people are going to take the bus.”

She’s hoping to have more information before any decision is made. “It warrants investigation,” she said.

Police Chief Robert Champagne counts himself in the same camp. “Whatever we can do to keep young people safe and let them enjoy themselves and have a good time is welcomed,” he said. A sober, rested, professional driver would help tremendously, he indicated.

But Champagne also stressed the need to make it acceptable to the kids.

Both McGeney and Charest agree that a number of things need to be worked out, including paying for such a service.

“These buses are not cheap,” said McGeney. “Neither are the limousines that the kids get. But whatever the cost is, that’s the least of it.” He expressed confidence that parents would be willing to pitch in if necessary.

This year’s prom season is over, Charest pointed out. Any program adopted would be applied to next year’s events.