When Epiphany Catholic School opened its doors August 26 for the new school year, some of its students arrived by bus for the first time in its 20-plus year history.
For the first time since opening in 1997, the private Catholic school located off Old Rixeyville Road had students report to class on buses Epiphany purchased this summer, said school Business Manager Mary Leslie.
Using money collected through fund-raisers at Precious Blood Catholic Church, Epiphany purchased a pair of new, 14-seat buses and hired four drivers to bring students to and from school each weekday.
Last Friday morning, Father Kevin Walsh of Precious Blood visited the school for its first Friday morning mass of the new school year and to officially bless the buses, which were parked in front of the school located at 1211 East Grandview Avenue, off the northern end of Old Rixeyville Road.
As school officials, a few parents and the buses’ passengers looked on, Walsh performed the blessing, which he concluded by sprinkling holy water on the vehicles and students.
Leslie said her first inquiries about establishing a transportation program for this school year did not receive much of a response when she sent them out to parents last winter.
“Over the summer, positive responses started trickling in,” Leslie said. “Before we knew it, the routes were full.”
Leslie said the bus routes now have a waiting list of six families. The two buses currently only run in Culpeper County, to the homes of 130 of the school’s 171 students.
The addition of the bus routes was one reason the school expanded its enrollment by 50 students this year, Leslie said.
“We had two families who only considered enrolling this year because of the buses,” she said. “I would say the response so far has been overwhelming.”
Leslie said each of the two buses has a route of about 45 minutes before and after school.
For each passenger, Leslie said the bus either pulls up in front of their house or pulls into their driveway in the mornings and afternoons.
“Our buses can’t stop traffic, so I designed the routes so that no student has to cross the street to board,” Leslie said. “We were lucky, there are a lot of cul-de-sacs on our routes.”
Walsh said the Precious Blood congregation began raising the roughly $50,500 needed for the first bus earlier this year, and quickly found there was enough demand for a second.
Walsh said the new school buses are pulling double-duty; they are being used on weekends to help parishioners attend services at Precious Blood.
While Epiphany’s students hail from the counties of Culpeper, Madison, Rapphannock and Orange, the initial two bus routes cover only Culpeper.
Walsh said the school hopes to add a third bus next school year and to replace one of the school’s two aging activity buses as well.
“We hope to start fund-raising in October for those,” Walsh said. “Our parishioners so far have been very generous. We’ve had donations from a lot of our older parishioners, people who don’t have kids or grandkids in the school.”
Although the families of the students riding the buses are paying extra for the service, Walsh said the school offers financial aid for those who need help with transportation costs, as well as scholarships and financial aid for tuition costs.
Michael Watts, a member of the school’s advisory board, said Epiphany Catholic School first opened as an elementary school in 1997 in the Precious Blood Catholic Church building on North Main Street, where it later expanded to include middle school classes.
It relocated to its current location in the former St.Luke’s Lutheran School building off Old Rixeyville Road in 2014.
Epiphany Catholic School may be contacted by calling (540) 825-9017 or through their website at epiphanycatholicschool.org.