DENVILLE, NJ-- The hot topic at the Nov. 23 meeting of the Denville Board of Education drew many parents and educators out to oppose moving to two tier busing. With a presentation on the pros of two tier busing from Dr. Sandra Cullis, the Assistant Superintendent and Steven Forte, the Superintendent, many parents came forward to address the board with their own concerns, research and questions.
Many of the parents noted that they believe that the issues with school start times and two tier busing are two seperate issues that are being discussed together. One of the cons from the public's eye is that by moving to two tier busing is the cutting down on bus stops. If the board were to move ahead and look at making two tier busing a reality for Denville, cutting bus stops would be required.
Another issue that came up by many people who spoke are the start times. Though there is yet an official start time, Dr. Cullis presented two options that could potentially take place. If option one were to be the case, the recommended start time would be 8:00 a.m. to 2:53 p.m. for elementary school students, while the middle school would begin at 8:30 a.m. and end at 3:23 p.m. Cullis also posed option two to the parents and board, the middle school school would start at 8:00 a.m. and end at 2:53 p.m. and the elementary schools would begin at 8:30 a.m. and end at 3:23 p.m.
Other speakers dicsussed how this start time change would benefit the middle schoolers as they approach high school and the real world, they will have to face getting up early. Currently, Morris Knolls has a start time of 7:30 a.m. Many of the concerned parents reached out to Morris Knolls to see if they would be planning on changing their times to accomadate the surveys that have been done. Howvever, due to their following of the NJSIAA sports rules, athletic events have specific times and thus Morris Knolls cannot consider changing their time of opening.
From a safety perspective, a substitute bus driver addressed the board about the elimination of bus stops. As a bus driver, the drivers are responsible for making sure that at each stop, every child has a parent or guardian waiting for them as they get off the buses in the afternoons. If Denville were to cut down on bus stops, many of the stops would become "mega stops" where there may be as many as 10 children getting off the bus at one time. If that's the case, a bus driver cannot accurately make sure that each child has a parent or guardian, which can result in safety issues.
Other issues that parents brought up included the prospect of having to provide before school care for their children, the issues of cutting bus stops in hazardous areas around Denville, the studies from the American Academy of Pediatrics being done in areas that are not consistent with Denville, and the problems with sports practices and extracurricular activites already taking up time in children's schedules. Some parents had also publicly stated that children getting enough sleep is a parenting issue and not a school wide issue.
Forte and Cullis along with every member of the Board of Education reminded the public that the meeting was merely to bring a discussion. The board stressed that no decision has been made about two tier busing but they will continue to look into it as a possibility for Denville. Forte and Cullis are hoping that more people from the public will come out for future meetings when two tier busing is an item for discussion on the agenda.
After the heated hour and a half debate on two tier busing, the board carried on to their regular meeting business, which included the approvals of new hires for the district, field trips, and paying of bills.
To see the Board of Education meeting and two tier busing discussion in it's entirety, head to the Board of Education YouTube page. The next Denville Board of Education meeting will take place on Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m. in the Valleyview Library.