September 3, 2013 at 11:20 AM
SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ - About 60 parents and students attended the Board of Education meeting on Aug. 29, many to describe how their households were negatively impacted by the recent review of, and change to, school bus routes.
There are 110 students who have had bus service who will no longer be picked up. The New Jersey Administrative code that is being enforced is that the district does not require the Scotch Plains/Fanwood BOE to provide bus service to children who are located less than two miles from an elementary school and 2.5 miles from the high school.
Nancy and John Lama of Scotch Plains petitioned the Scotch Plains Fanwood Board of Education to consider restoring the bus service along the routes that have been in place for years. Their petition can be seen online at http://www.change.org/petitions/scotch-plains-fanwood-board-of-education-restore-bus-service-to-affected-residents. The petition gathered more than 104 signatures during the one week that it was posted.
John Lama asked the question, “Why all of a sudden this year?”
Deborah Saridaki, the business administrator at the School Superintendent’s office, explained that the office, as of last fall, was looking into the transportation issue that was contrary to board policy. “We let (families) know that we would continue the busing for the past year, but that would be the last time that it takes place, because we did not want to contact people in the middle of the year,” Saradaki said. “We went through every busing route that we had, we investigated all the addresses to try to make sure it was as equitable as possible and followed the district guidelines and board policy.”
The office put together a list of people that were not entitled to busing and let them know before the summer so families could make arrangements.
More than one parent suggested grandfathering in everybody that’s already been on the bus.
Board of Education President Trip Whitehouse explained that the board acts upon recommendations from the board superintendent; it does not run or administer the district. “There were errors in enforcement over time” and from a review done last year the errors came to light."
Lama asked, “Is there a way to formally request that bus service to the affected students be reinstituted for a period of time so that we can work with the appropriate people to determine what is in the best interest of the community?” Issues that need to be addressed include adding crossing guards to the dangerous intersections that the students will now need to navigate.
Many parents spoke about their childrens’ safety, the need to protect them, and to provide them a way to get to school on time and ready for a day of learning. Many of the streets that the children travel do not have sidewalks.
During the discussions some intersections were mentioned, more than once, as being particularly dangerous and in need of crossing guards. Those intersections are Martine and South avenues; King Street and Terrill Road; andJerusalem Road and Mountain Avenue.
Superintendent Dr. Margaret Hayes will have her office contact the police department in regards to getting crossing guards at those intersections.
Whitehouse said, “There may have been a couple things that could have been done a little bit differently,” including earlier notification, and more crossing guards added by the police departments, which have oversight from the town councils.