Parents slam new school bus routes

Teaneck consolidates stops in response to budget cutbacks

A dispute is simmering in Teaneck over new school bus routes, which parents of Jewish day school students say in many cases are dangerous and at best difficult to work with.

The new system establishes new central pick-up and drop-off points for the students. In the past students were picked up and let off close to their homes. Under the new plan, in some cases students must walk long distances or be driven to the central points.

A meeting is scheduled for Monday evening at 7:30 at the Richard Rodda Community Center, Gym 2, called by the parents’ group “Safe Teaneck.” Board of education officials and police officials have been invited, said Elie Katz. Katz is a councilman but was speaking in his role as the parent of a youngster who will use the bus service.

Allison Kobus of the State Department of Education said districts must meet state law, but beyond that it’s a local issue. She referred this reporter to the department website, which says elementary school students living more than two miles from school and secondary school students living two and a half miles from school are entitled to bus service.

Katz said the new arrangement will be a danger and disruption to the whole community. He noted that many pupils attending public schools, which will serve as hubs, will face waiting buses and cars dropping off youngsters for the buses. Also, at other pick-up points, homeowners will face the prospect of crowds of children waiting for buses in front of their houses at 6:30 or 7 in the morning.

In other cases, homeowners without sidewalks may be required to install them at their own expense, he said.

In a prepared statement, Katz cited the cancellation for this year of the proposed Shalom Academy charter school, and suggested that the funds freed up might be used for bus service.

A call to the Teaneck schools transportation coordinator office yielded a recording saying the board of education was working on the issue and would discuss it at its Aug. 7 meeting.

Board President Ardie Walser noted that budget constraints led to the changed bus schedules, and said, “We are working as hard as we can to lower the impact to our children.”

He said Teaneck is a “generous” community and if possible bus service would be available to all. He acknowledged that when schedules are changed there can be glitches and said that school officials will work to smooth them out.

Walser said bus service for public school students has been cut back, noting that a courtesy program, for pupils who live beyond nine-tenths of a mile from their school, has been dropped.

Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin said that although the busing issue is a board of education matter, “any public safety issue that arises will be addressed by council.” Speaking by phone, he said, “We hope that the board of education comes up with a solution” that will satisfy all sides.

Among schools attended by Teaneck youngsters are The Moriah School in Englewood; Yavneh Academy in Paramus; Ben Porat Yosef in Paramus; Yeshivat Noam in Bergenfield and Paramus; the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey in River Edge; and the Frisch School in Paramus.

A parent involved in the dispute, who asked to remain anonymous, said, “The overarching issue is safety,” and spoke of “little kids crossing big streets.”

“The board should have warned us; it’s only five weeks before school starts,” she said.

Ari Weisbrot, a Hackensack attorney retained by the parents’ group, stressed that the issue is “completely one of safety” and not a matter of convenience. “Unfortunately, the board has taken steps that are putting these children in danger,” he said.

While the parents are exploring the possibility of legal action, “We hope the matter will be resolved amicably,” Weisbrot said.

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