St. Cecilia’s new school bus brings off-island students to Bainbridge

  • Written by Brian LeBlanc
  • Published in Local
A grant and donations made it possible for St. Cecilia School on Bainbridge Island to replace a school bus that broke down in September 2017. Photo: Susan Kilbane A grant and donations made it possible for St. Cecilia School on Bainbridge Island to replace a school bus that broke down in September 2017. Photo: Susan Kilbane

BAINBRIDGE ISLAND – When St. Cecilia School’s bus broke down in September 2017, it left many families — including a large number from St. Olaf Parish in Poulsbo — scrambling to find transportation.

But Susan Kilbane, St. Cecilia’s principal, didn’t give up on the idea of providing transportation options for students.

She submitted a grant application to the nonprofit Garneau-Nicon Family Foundation of Seattle, which selected the school to receive a $30,000 grant. Combined with donations from parishioners and parents, St. Cecilia’s was able to purchase a new bus.

As a result, eight new students have enrolled, Kilbane said. And student Avery Coffee — who had to change schools mid-year because transportation logistics became “untenable” after the bus broke down — was able to return to St. Cecilia’s as a first-grader, said her mother, Nancy Coffee.

“My husband reenrolled our daughter the very day Principal Kilbane contacted us about the bus purchase for St. Cecilia,” Coffee said in an email. The bus is a blessing for the school, she added, because it expands the ability to bring children “to our amazing community of grace and learning.”

St Cecilia bus Father Mark Kiszelewski, pastor of St. Cecilia Parish, blesses the new school bus for St. Cecilia School at the beginning of the 2018–19 school year. Photo: Susan Kilbane

Founded in 2001, St. Cecilia has 92 students in grades K–8, who come from not just Bainbridge Island, but also from Indianola, Kingston, Poulsbo and Bremerton. Bus service for off-island students has been provided (for an additional charge) since 2010, when the new school building was completed. Students from off-island communities are picked up by the school bus at St. Olaf’s (11 miles away) or at a store on the Port Madison Reservation in Suquamish (7 miles away).

“St. Cecilia’s is a diverse community geographically, ethnically and socioeconomically — and the bus helps with that,” Kilbane said.

The new bus was put into service on the first day of school in September 2018. A St. Cecilia parishioner, Cathy Chadwick, drives the bus.

“Cathy is totally committed to the students of St. Cecilia Catholic School,” Kilbane said. “She even washes the bus, when needed, on the weekend.”

In addition to her daily duties, Chadwick drives St. Cecilia students on field trips and hikes; later this year the bus will transport students to Camp Hamilton in Monroe for an overnight camping trip.

“The possibilities for using our island as a resource for learning have expanded considerably” because of the bus, Kilbane said.

And the parish community takes pride in the bus.

Kilbane said her father, Tom Kilbane, also a St. Cecilia parishioner, told her that he saw the school bus motoring along while he was in Poulsbo last fall.

“His sentiment shows the joy that our parishioners have in our new bus,” the principal said.