Some Albany Academies students are riding to school in style.
The private school for boys and girls purchased a 44-passenger bus this school year, complete with bucket seating and a Wi-Fi connection to allow students to access the Internet.
Anthony Rossi, 17, of Saratoga Springs, said he likes that the seats have more cushioning and are roomier, especially for a 6-foot, 4-inch tall guy like him. “It’s just more comfortable to be in for the ride — 45 minutes to an hour,” he said.
Sophomore Gabrielle Guzman, 16, also of Saratoga Springs, said she likes the Wi-Fi connection. “I can do school work. It’s a lot more spacious than our old bus was.”
Guzman also likes that there is a second bus run after school so she can stay for an after-school activity or sport. Another plus is it has air conditioning and excellent heat in the winter.
Pam MacAffer, chief financial officer and dean of students, said the school decided to spend $100,000 for the bus for a couple of reasons: It gives the school more flexibility if it needs transportation during the day for a field trip, and it allowed the school to establish another late bus run for people who stay after school for sports and activities.
In addition, the school anticipates growth in Saratoga County with the arrival of industries such as GlobalFoundries and they want to help parents with transportation.
The new bus picks up students from mostly the Saratoga County area. The school has two other 14-passenger buses that pick up students from Amsterdam and Columbia and Greene counties.
About 65 students are signed up for the Saratoga County run, although not all students ride the bus every day. The Amsterdam run has about 12 students, and the Columbia-Greene route has 18 to 20 students.
The feedback has been positive, according to MacAffer. “Parents and kids love it. It’s been incredibly convenient for them. They’re getting work done on the bus. It’s been a win-win,” she said.
The bus is another selling point for a school whose enrollment has gone up more than 9 percent this year to nearly 800 students. MacAffer attributed the increase to parents disappointed by cutbacks in public schools and also aggressive marketing on the school’s part. The school has increased its language and art offerings.
MacAffer said she believes Albany Academies is one of the only private schools in the area to own its own large passenger bus. Other schools contract with private companies or have smaller buses.
La Salle Institute, an all-boys school for grades 6-12 in Troy, is in its second year of using an 18-passenger bus that picks up students from the Valatie and Chatham areas. Before that, it was using a van, according to Richard Eddings, assistant development director. They also run a van to Malta and Clifton Park. If there is a need, they will work their way up to having a bus.
Public school districts are supposed to transport students to private schools within 15 miles of the home district’s school.
However, Eddings said it is not always convenient for students. For example, the bus may pick up a student at 6 a.m. and then travel to several schools. “So you’re on a bus for an hour and a half each way,” he said.
Doane Stuart School in Rensselaer, for example, contracts with an outside company to provide transportation. It has three runs — one to Columbia and Greene counties, one to the Saratoga and Clifton Park areas and one to Albany, according to Michael Green, director of admission. School officials are planning to add a bus to serve Schenectady and split the Columbia and Greene counties route into separate buses.
Students are coming to Doane Stuart from within an hour drive of the school, according to Green.
“We have such a diverse student body in terms of geography,” he said.
School officials wanted to expand its reach in Schenectady, Green said. The fact that students come from different social and economic backgrounds is one of its strengths, he said.