Education

Changes to Millburn School Busing Raises Concerns About Safe Routes to Schools

b515870900d280d42bea_c896be3a88a4dc3a7e22_mini_magick20180510-124216-9qw39m.jpg
b515870900d280d42bea_c896be3a88a4dc3a7e22_mini_magick20180510-124216-9qw39m.jpg

MILLBURN, NJ --  On “International Walk to School” on Wednesday, the Millburn School district encouraged its students to walk or bike to school, as part of an effort to reduce congestion and improve children's health and fitness. But for many parents in the Knollwood section of Short Hills near Millburn Middle School, allowing their children to walk to school is not an option.

Residents say the lack of sidewalks, roads with blind curves and cars speeding on busy Old Short Hills Road makes it unsafe to walk to school, particularly for elementary school children at Hartshorn School that can mean a two-mile walk.

And now, in what some parents described as a bolt out of the blue, the free busing service the Knollwood section has received for nearly two decades will no longer be available to them.

Sign Up for E-News

The Millburn School district recently notified 70 families that they will no longer be eligible for free busing after an internal audit revealed that they do not live in the mandated busing zone. New Jersey State Laws require school districts to provide busing to only those students who live more than 2 miles from their public elementary and middle schools and more than 2.5 miles from their public high schools.

“In reviewing the listing for eligibility for transportation, we found some inaccuracies,” School Business Administrator Cheryl Schneider said at the Board of Education meeting Monday. “A number of addresses previously listed as eligible for mandated busing were found to be under the mandated mileage. The discrepancy was in the listing of those who were eligible when compared to the mileage on our mapping system.”

Families affected by the change now have to make their own transportation arrangements or opt for “subscription busing," which costs $775 a child, capped at $1,550 a family in the 2018-19 year.

Some parents are disputing the distance calculations with the district since by their calculations they either meet the 2-mile criteria or fall just short of it. The district relies on the Transportation department’s Transfinder app to calculate the distance in accordance with the eligibility requirements stipulated by law. Parents present at Monday's meeting voiced concern that the issue was less to do with the new subscription fee and more to do with the lack of viable alternatives.

Andree Bourgon, a parent residing in the Knollwood section said she was “caught off-guard” by the written notification of the change, which she described as being cold and abrupt with little explanation or background on the audit.

Bourgon, who spoke several times during the public meeting on the issue, said she does not dispute the fact that her family does not qualify for free busing since they live within 2 miles of the school. But she argued that the board had not factored in the bigger impact of the change.

“Thirty-five families in Knollwood will be impacted by this. If they drive, what impact does it have on Millburn Middle School and Hartshorn? Have the principals been contacted? Have the police been contacted to discuss what impact would be on traffic patterns?” said Bourgon, adding “We feel this is another knee-jerk reaction to an overall lack of a strategic plan around transportation.”

The audit of the mandated routes was part of an effort to ensure that the district was being efficient and equitable in delivering subscription busing board Vice President Kate Foss said. The Knollwood section had been receiving free service even though they should have technically been paying for it. “I understand no one wants to pay the fee, but you have to decide a guideline and follow it so it is equitable for everybody.”

Problems related to busing has been a major administrative headache for the district this year, leading the board to step up its focus on transportation. In January, the board set up an ad-hoc Transportation Committee led by board member Alex Zaltsman which meets once a week. The board has since appointed a new transportation supervisor and has said that it has already begun putting together routes for the next academic year, which it hopes to firm up by the end of June.

The board also recently decided to raise the fees for subscription busing from $590 per child previously to ensure that the service was “self-sustaining." The board’s analysis of the costs found that subscription busing had been operating at a loss for years. Of the 25 tiered bus routes, 17 exist only for subscription busing.

Joy Sajous of Old Short Hills Road said she doubted anyone lived further from Hartshorn Elementary than she did. “Who is living 2 miles from any other school…if anyone lives further than where I live, it would be a different district altogether,” she said.

Despite living close to school, not everyone walks to school. And while the reasons for this are many, the lack of safe walking paths is an oft-cited factor. The district is not required by law to provide busing for students who live within the prescribed limits to schools even if the route to school is considered hazardous. 

The board has said that safety along public roadways and walkways is the responsibility of the municipality and not the school district. Parents argued that the district needs to address the issue of safe walkways, including maintaining a list of hazardous routes and working with the community and the town administration to ensure safe routes to schools.

“For me, it is not about subscription, it is about safety for the kids,” said Brian Lawrence. “I want to be sure if the bus is taken away that we work together to make sure there are safe routes to the schools.”

Lawrence urged the board to consider availing of funding from the New Jersey Safe Routes To School program to help build sidewalks to schools so that more children can walk and bike to school.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Millburn/Short Hills

Video: Scoutmaster Ken Fineran Street Dedication Ceremony

May 21, 2018

MILLBURN, NJ - Millburn Township and Boy Scout Troop 17 of St. Rose of Lima honored the life and accomplishments of late Scoutmaster Kenneth W. Fineran on Sunday, May 20. Troop 17 Scouts, in conjunction with Millburn Township and St. Rose of Lima Church.

Vehicle Stolen from Residence; Millburn Police Department Investigating

May 10, 2018

On May 2, 2018 Millburn Police Officer Barbosa responded to Neiman Marcus on a theft report. Neiman Marcus personnel report a black male wearing a black jumpsuit with the word “Kappa” on the front, and a black male wearing a blue shirt with the word “Champion” on the front each took a backpack valued at $1195.00 each and left the store without making payment. The incident ...

AtlantiCast

AtlantiCast: Episode 15

On this week’s AtlantiCast, learn some important tips for controlling and avoiding diabetes from an Atlantic Health System expert, see how Atlantic Health is advancing cutting-edge research, hear what’s being done to keep health care environmentally friendly and much more!

 

Upcoming Millburn Township Committee Primary Election

May 12, 2018

Dear Fellow Millburn and Short Hills Residents,

Having given the selection of a candidate for the upcoming Millburn Township Committee primary election some serious thought, I have come to the conclusion that Corey Biller has the credentials to move the Township forward in a positive manner.

I know that Corey will bring a new and positive sensibility to the Committee, one that is ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_0107a49d5d9d4b0487f7_32153724_1962184047156114_4486676335237791744_n

Wed, May 23, 7:30 PM

Millburn High School , Millburn

Millburn High School Spring Concert

Carousel_image_0aa9371be0a5c11dde9e_32207734_590377658000828_3468436406508978176_n

Thu, May 24, 5:00 PM

The Hills Tavern, Millburn

Pre-Memorial Day Bash at Hills Tavern

Carousel_image_27a1c651521c971f9a4d_1cdb218c0a6934197fac_b2a4cff22151f502f44b2552724bef71_xl

Thu, May 24, 7:00 PM

Livingston Public Library, Livingston

Understanding Hearing Loss

Health & Wellness

Carousel_image_a672cdafc20b92829fd3_158ad19999d276c471a8_picture1

Fri, May 25, 12:30 PM

Millburn High School, Millburn

Fleet Week at Millburn High School

Genius Gems Grand Opening in Millburn

May 22, 2018

Genius Gems LLC, a Unique STEM-based Learn & Play Space, Announces Grand Opening in Millburn, New Jersey on June 3rd  

 

What Can Your Child Build with over 24,000 Magnetic Tiles?

 

MILLBURN, NJ – Genius Gems, a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)-based learn and play space, is thrilled to announce the opening of ...

First Millburn Spring Festival Coming to Taylor Park

The Indian American Association of Millburn and Short Hills and The South Mountain Civic Association are organizing the 1st Millburn Spring Festival in Taylor park and Bauer Center on Sunday, June 10th, 2018 from 1-4 PM. The entire community is invited to a fun filled afternoon with many Millburn downtown restaurants setting up food stalls, Henna tattoo artist, Face painting and live Indian Music ...

Suicide Awareness and Intervention Training coming to Millburn Library May 23

Caring Contact, a crisis hotline that serves Northern and Central New Jersey, will host Suicide Awareness and Intervention Training at the Millburn Library on May 23, 6:30-8:30 p.m. There is no cost for this training but space is limited so registration is recommended.

 

To register, visit http://weblink.donorperfect.com/SuicideAwarenessSpring2018.

 

Caring contact's ...

SURVIVING A STROKE: Quick Medical Response Gives Mom Her Life Back

Carotid artery dissection. It’s one of the most common causes of stroke in younger adults.

And while you might not associate the word “stroke” with younger patients, the condition – if not treated immediately – could lead to paralysis and even death.

Lindsey Singh can attest to the importance of immediacy. The 31-year-old mother of two from Flanders experienced ...