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Winthrop gets gift of school bus fleet

The Viking Pride Foundation has donated four school buses to Winthrop. The buses will be used for daily routes, athletic events, and field trips. The Viking Pride Foundation has donated four school buses to Winthrop. The buses will be used for daily routes, athletic events, and field trips.
By Steven A. Rosenberg
Globe Staff / January 6, 2011

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WINTHROP — It’s rare that public dedications are scheduled for new buses, but in these difficult economic times, municipal leaders say every penny counts.

So tomorrow morning, native son and House seaker Robert A. DeLeo will stand before four gleaming school buses and celebrate the creation of the town’s newest transportation fleet.

For as long as people can remember, the school department has leased buses for its daily routes to and from schools, and for athletic events and field trips.

But last year the Viking Pride Foundation, a nonprofit that has donated more than $500,000 to Winthrop schools since the town stopped funding athletics in 2004, announced plans to spend $200,000 to buy four buses — two new and two used — so the school district could save additional funds.

“These buses have a shelf life of up to 12 years, and we wanted something that would continue to give back to the community after we were done making our donation,’’ said Vin Crossman, chairman of Viking Pride.

For six years, Viking Pride has helped subsidize athletic user fees and student fees for school clubs such as drama and student council. Most of the contributions have come from residents, parents, and alumni.

While the donations have kept user fees down — students currently pay $225 to play on a team — officials from the nonprofit group and the town say the new buses will cut at least $40,000 from the district’s $110,000 transportation budget each year.

In addition to the daily routes and transporting teams to away games, the buses will be used for field trips and by the town’s Parks and Recreation Department for other student trips.

“Every dollar does count, particularly in the athletic program,’’ said Kevin Meagher, the school district’s business manager.

Jeffrey Turco, Winthrop’s Town Council president and a member of School Committee, said the buses will give the town more flexibility to add outside programming for students. He called the donation a visionary act.

“It’s a win-win for the school district and it’s saving us money. And, in addition, we’ve seen an increase in field trips at the schools,’’ Turco said.