SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- The Scotch Plains-Fanwood SPFK12 school district sent letters home to some parents of Terrill Middle School students to inform them that they will be losing their busing at the end of this year.
The letter came from Deborah S. Saridaki, the School Business Administrator for Scotch Plains-Fanwood school district. The letter also went to McGinn parents so that they wouldn't anticipate having busing next year and to parents who have subscription busing. More than 90 students are in the Hetfield Avenue neighborhood that are currently entitled to busing.
Based on information received from the New Jersey Department of Education's Transportation Office, students attending Terrill Middle School who have been receiving bus transportation in the area of the T5 and T6 bus routes for several years, near Hetfield Ave., do not qualify for transportation today.
When busing was initiated on Hetfield Avenue, the Terrill (walking and bike) path was not considered due to the condition of the walkway. This path from Essex Road to Terrill Middle School was in disrepair, narrow, consistently covered in mud and riddled with holes. Today the walkway is widened and in good condition for students walking or riding their bicycles, so it must be considered as a viable public walkway to Terrill at this time.
Utilization of this Terrill path reduces the mileage for many families by as much as one-half mile or more. Thus, the students in this residential area do not meet the State’s criteria of walking more than two miles to school and therefore are not entitled to busing.
To ease this transition for Terrill families, we are continuing these two bus routes for the 2019- 2020 school year with no change. Change will occur in 2020-2021 for the families of Terrill students on these routes, at which time we may consider subscription busing for interested families.
Mrs. Saridaki, in an interview with TAPintoSPF following the Board of Education meeting Thursday night, acknowledged that this development was an unintended consequence of fixing the path to Terrill Middle School.
"We did not know at the time that fixing the path would impact busing for Terrill students near Hetfield Avenue," Mrs. Saridaki said. "We informed parents now to give them time to prepare for this change, rather than waiting until the spring to announce it."
Terrill Middle School parents took to social media to express their displeasure.
Typically, 7% of students walk to school, 46% of students are driven to school, 17% carpool, 30% use the school bus, and only 1% of students ride bicycles to school, according to a 2016 report prepared by the Meadowlands Transportation Brokerage Corporation, prepared with funding from the New Jersey Department of Transportation
The report also made recommendations on Safe Route to School improvements, including: repaving and leveling sidewalks along Terrill Middle School bike path, Kevin Road, King Street, Terrill Road, Cooper Road, Coles Elementary bike path, Raritan Road, and West Broad Street. Additionally, the report advised painting crosswalks and stop sign bars at most of the intersections along the routes.
"Have the Scotch Plains and Fanwood Police Departments weighed in on this plan? Have Mayor Smith and Mayor Mahr weighed in on this plan? You are talking about at least 100 kids," said parent Anthony Fiore. "Take the traffic on Terrill Road every morning and afternoon and add at the very least 35 more cars and at most 50-75. I asked a resident of Fenimore Road this morning, and it takes 15 minutes to drive their daughter from their house to the front of Terrill in the rain."
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