Monday, September 7, 2015

Not only a lakewood problem Howell also has bussing issues

Howell students attending private school in lakewood also were left without busing as companies did not bid on routes.
APP That was the message Friday from the Lakewood School District to parents upset over 11th hour route cancellations that have left hundreds of local schoolchildren without bus transportation.

A total of 57 planned routes were scratched right before the start of the school year because bus companies didn't bid on them. The cuts affect Lakewood students attending 36 area schools, including numerous Orthodox Jewish yeshivas and three public schools.



The district plans to re-bid the routes on Sept. 17. But even if vendors want the routes, it could be weeks before buses are in place.

Some progress was reported Friday. The district informed officials at Calvary Academy, a private school on East County Line Road, that spaces would be available for approximately 50 of the school's Lakewood students on buses transporting public school pupils to Piner Elementary School, located just up the road.


How are you managing with busing for your child?  We'd like to hear from you. See the reporter's contact information and the bottom of the story.
"I had originally asked if this was a possibility and was told no, so when we were contacted last night, I was very pleased," Suzanne Bruno, Calvary's head of school, said Friday.

At another school, St. Veronica in Howell, however, the situation was "still a bit of a nightmare," its principal said.

In addition to 24 pupils from Lakewood affected by the cuts, the Catholic elementary school had another 37 from Howell without buses, even though they qualify for transportation, said Sister Cherree Power.

As Power understands it, the reason in Howell is the same as in Lakewood: Bus companies didn't bid on the routes, either because they didn't have enough buses or the routes were deemed to have too few riders to be profitable.

The result is a huge headache - not only for parents, but for the school, as well, she said.

Already the school's enrollment has dropped to a critically low level - 210 pupils this year, down from more than 600 only five or six years ago, Power said.

"Some (parents) have already spoken to me about the possibility of having to withdraw their children from school" if buses can't be provided, she said.

"For us, that is critical, because we could continue to lose more students," the principal explained. "They need transportation, and we need the students."

Adding to parents' aggravation is the fact that many weren't informed of the route cancellations until just days before the start of school, or in some cases the day before.

On Thursday, Lakewood's transportation consultant, Gus Kakavas, said the normal bidding process was held up this year by an impasse with leaders of the Orthodox yeshivas here over courtesy busing costs.Families without buses who are eligible for transportation can apply for a stipend, called "aid in lieu of transportation." More information is available by calling the school board's offices at 732-364-2400.

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