School Transportation: Is walking really an option?

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State school busing requirements mandate that any child in K-8 more than 2 miles from school and high school students more than 2 ½ miles from school is entitled to transportation.  In addition, while not mandated, courtesy busing may be offered to children within the required limits if their route requires traveling a dangerous road or intersection.  Courtesy busing is offered to Campbell students on the south side of Route 27 for this very reason.  
 
However, South Main, the intersection of Main and Amboy, Grove Avenue, North Main in the morning and as schools are letting out - several serious examples of roadways that might be considered dangerous.  Add to that the reported attempted child-lurings we read about each year and it's hard for a parent to make the decision to send a child off on his or her own for a walk to school.
 
And so, each day, families not entitled to busing must carve out an hour or two to head out with their kids in the morning and head back to school in the afternoon for pick-up - perhaps careening across town from one school to another. Crowded carpools sometimes result in un-belted children and some licensed seniors are driving more than one friend home despite provisional license requirements. 
 
But what can the district do?  Busing is expensive and the budget only stretches so far. We are raising the issue with hopes of learning what people think and perhaps we'll hear a suggestion or two.

42 Comments

Who reads the articles?

And for the above 2 posts, thank you very little

The info from the previous two comments has been available via the link the in the first sentence of the article

18A:39-1 Transportation of pupils remote from school.
18A:39-1. Whenever in any district there are elementary school pupils who live more than two miles from their public school of attendance or secondary school pupils who live more than 2 1/2 miles from their public school of attendance, the district shall provide transportation to and from school for these pupils.

When any school district provides any transportation for public school pupils to and from school pursuant to this section, transportation shall be supplied to school pupils residing in such school district in going to and from any remote school other than a public school, not operated for profit in whole or in part, located within the State not more than 20 miles from the residence of the pupil; except that if the district is located in a county of the third class with a population of not less than 80,000 and not more than 120,000 transportation shall be provided to a nonpublic school located outside the State not more than 20 miles from the residence of the pupil, if there is no appropriate nonpublic school within the State located closer to the residence of the pupil; provided the per pupil cost of the lowest bid received does not exceed $675 for the 1992-93 school year or the amount determined for subsequent years pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1981, c.57 (C.18A:39-1a), and if such bid shall exceed that cost then the parent, guardian or other person having legal custody of the pupil shall be eligible to receive $675 for the 1992-93 school year or the amount determined pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1981, c.57 (C.18A:39-1a) for subsequent years toward the cost of his transportation to a qualified school other than a public school, regardless of whether such transportation is along established public school routes. It shall be the obligation of the parent, guardian or other person having legal custody of the pupil attending a remote school, other than a public school, not operating for profit in whole or in part, to register said pupil with the office of the secretary of the board of education at the time and in the manner specified by rules and regulations of the State board in order to be eligible for the transportation provided by this section. If the registration of any such pupil is not completed by September 1 of the school year and if it is necessary for the board of education to enter into a contract establishing a new route in order to provide such transportation, then the board shall not be required to provide it, but in lieu thereof the parent, guardian or other person having legal custody of the pupil shall be eligible to receive $675 or the amount determined pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1981, c.57 (18A:39-1a), or an amount computed by multiplying 1/180 times the number of school days remaining in the school year at the time of registration, times $675 for the 1992-93 school year or the amount determined pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1981, c.57 (C.18A:39-1a) for subsequent years, whichever is the smaller amount. Whenever any regional school district provides any transportation for pupils attending schools other than public schools pursuant to this section, said regional district shall assume responsibility for the transportation of all such pupils, and the cost of such transportation for pupils below the grade level for which the regional district was organized shall be prorated by the regional district among the constituent districts on a per pupil basis, after approval of such costs by the county superintendent. This section shall not require school districts to provide any transportation for pupils attending a school other than a public school, where the only transportation presently provided by said district is for school children transported pursuant to chapter 46 of Title 18A of the New Jersey Statutes or for pupils transported to a vocational, technical or other public school offering a specialized program. Any transportation to a school, other than a public school, shall be pursuant to the same rules and regulations promulgated by the State board as governs transportation to any public school.

The board of education may make rules and contracts for the pupil transportation provided pursuant to this section.

Nothing in this section shall be so construed as to prohibit a board of education from making contracts for the transportation of pupils to a school in an adjoining district, when such pupils are transferred to the district by order of the county superintendent, or when any pupils shall attend school in a district other than that in which they shall reside by virtue of an agreement made by the respective boards of education.

Nothing herein contained shall limit or diminish in any way any of the provisions for transportation for children pursuant to chapter 46 of this Title.

L.1967, c.271; amended 1968,c.29,s.1; 1968,c.200; 1968,c.299; 1974,c.78; 1977,c.206; 1981,c.57,s.1; 1985,c.513; 1990,c.52,s.50; 1992,c.33,s.1.

18A:39-1a Adjustment of non-public school transportation costs.

2.For the 2002-2003 school year, the maximum amount of nonpublic school transportation costs per pupil provided for in N.J.S.18A:39-1 shall equal $735 and this amount shall be increased in each subsequent year in direct proportion to the increase in the State transportation aid per pupil in the year prior to the prebudget year compared to the amount for the prebudget year or by the CPI, whichever is greater.

As used in this section, State transportation aid per pupil shall equal the total State transportation aid payments made pursuant to section 15 of P.L.2007, c.260 (C.18A:7F-57) divided by the number of pupils eligible for transportation. "CPI" means the average annual increase, expressed as a decimal, in the consumer price index for the New York City and Philadelphia areas during the fiscal year preceding the prebudget year as reported by the United States Department of Labor.

In the 2002-2003 school year and thereafter, any additional costs incurred by a school district due to the increase in the maximum amount of nonpublic school transportation costs per pupil pursuant to this section shall be borne by the State.

L.1981, c.57, s.2; amended 1990, c.52, s.51; 1992, c.33, s.2; 1996, c.138, s.66; 2001, c.437, s.1; 2007, c.260, s.62.

18A:39-1b. Furnishing of district information
3. Each school district shall furnish to the Department of Education the information necessary for the department to complete a comparison of transportation costs, so that equitable adjustments may be made in the amount of the payments in lieu of transportation required pursuant to N.J.S.18A:39-1.

L.1992,c.33,s.3.


http://www.state.nj.us/education/finance/transportation/faq.htm

Frequently Asked Questions Of The Office Of Student Transportation

Q. Who must be transported?

A. In accordance with State law, N.J.S.A. 18A:39-1, all public elementary school students (grades K-8) who live more than 2 miles from their school and all public secondary school students (grades 9-12) who live more than 2 ½ miles from their school are entitled to transportation. These students are said to live "remote from school". Whenever any school district is required to provide transportation to students attending regular public school programs, students attending nonpublic schools who meet those distance requirements may also be entitled to transportation services. In addition, any student classified with special needs who either meets these distance requirements or for whom transportation is required in the student’s Individual Education Plan must be transported.

Q. How is the distance between a student’s home and school measured?

A. Measurement is made by the shortest distance along public roadways or walkways between the entrance to the student’s home closest to the roadway or walkway to the nearest public entrance of the school building. This measurement is for eligibility purposes only and is not necessarily the travel path to or from school.

Q. Who is responsible for transportation to charter and choice schools?

A. The transportation of students to and from a charter school is the responsibility of the board of education of the school district in which the student resides. Students who reside less than remote from their charter school are eligible for transportation in accordance with the policies of the district board of education in which they reside.

Choice school districts are responsible for providing transportation to enrolled choice school students who are eligible for transportation.

Q. Are there any limits on nonpublic school transportation?

A. Yes, there are several limits on nonpublic school transportation. They are:

The school must be a nonprofit school;
The school must be located within the state, except for certain counties of the third class (Warren);

The school may be located no more than twenty miles from the student’s home;

The cost of the transportation may not exceed the annual maximum expenditure set by law each year ($884 for the 2008-2009 school year);

Students must be in grades kindergarten through grade twelve; and

Students must meet the entrance age requirements for the public school students in the resident school district.

If the cost of the transportation to be provided to the nonpublic school student will exceed the annual maximum expenditure, then the school district may not provide the transportation, but instead must pay the student’s parent or legal guardian that amount in lieu of transportation.

In the 2008-2009 school year, transportation services are also extended to students living in third-class counties or second-class counties with a population of less than 235,000 who reside no more than 30 miles from their nonpublic schools located within the state. This applies to Cumberland, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Salem, Sussex and Warren counties.

Q. Is it a district responsibility to provide transportation for students who live less than remote from school when hazardous road conditions exist?

A. Boards of education are not required by law to provide busing for students who live less than remote from school even for safety reasons. However, boards are permitted, at their own discretion and expense, to provide transportation for students who reside less than remote from school and may charge the student’s parents or legal guardians for this service. Municipalities may also contract with boards of education for this service and charge the parents. This transportation service is called subscription busing.

Q. Where can I purchase subscription busing?

A. Subscription busing may be purchased from your own school district, another school district transporting students to that school, or a coordinating transportation services agency (CTSA) providing busing to that school. A board of education or CTSA may provide this service at their own discretion.

Q. Who is responsible for safe travel along public roadways or walkways?

A. Case law has long held that safety along public roadways and walkways is a municipal responsibility. It is for this reason that municipalities install sidewalks, traffic signals and signs, and paint crosswalks. Pursuant to Section 40A:9-154.1 of the New Jersey statutes, school crossing guards are appointed by the municipality and are under the supervision of the chief of police or other chief law enforcement officer.

Q. How long may a school bus be used to transport students in New Jersey?

A. Most school buses can be used for twelve years from the date of manufacture, or the end of the school year in which that date occurs. Vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight exceeding 25,000 pounds may be used for twenty years.

Q. Are school buses required to be equipped with passenger seat belts?

A. All vehicles manufactured after October 1992 are required to be equipped with lap-type seat belts or other child restraint systems.

Q. What is being done to ensure that students are safely transported to and from school?

A. School buses are inspected at least twice each year by special school bus inspection teams from the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.

School bus drivers are required to hold a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) with a passenger endorsement, and are, therefore, also required to meet federal standards for alcohol and drug testing. These standards include testing upon initial employment followed by random tests. In addition, school bus drivers must undergo a physical examination every two years, a criminal background check upon initial employment and at the time of renewal of their CDL, and submit an annual driver’s abstract (i.e., a history of motor vehicle violations).

Q. Has the school transportation efficiency plan resulted in any actual efficiencies?

A. Yes, since the inception of the School Transportation Efficiency Plan, the number of districts falling below the state standard of 120 percent vehicle utilization has decreased from 489 school districts to 140, and the number of students transported through coordinated transportation services has grown from approximately 8,000 to roughly 63,000.

Why do we bus kids to St. Francis?

Since there is no bus service offered at all to Kindergarten or High School students, it would be nice if the Board of Ed would be considerate to parents and stagger the start and ending days of school so if a parent does need to drive to more then one school they could do so without the worry of having one child be late or be late picking them up.

Edgar is fine, but we have Moss with am starting at 8:45 and pm pick up at 2:49
Campbell start time is 8:30 with a 2:55 dismissal
HS is 8:25 (warning bell) with a 2:45 dismissal.

It does make it hard if you need to pick up or drop off at two different schools, or even if you have a Campbell student take the bus, say you are delayed in traffic you do run the risk of getting back home barely in time to be there as your child is being dropped off.

As a family that lives 2.4 miles from the HS we do drive our child every morning since we do not want them walking 40 minutes to get to school. They do walk home when it is nice, but there have been plenty of days that even by the afternoon it is not nice enough weather that we want our child to walk home. Like I said it takes them a good 40 minutes to walk the 2.4 miles to get home.

There are at least 120 kids in kindergarten every year and climbing), not 70.

High School kids should walk, the younger kids should get a bus.

What's better, giving 70 kids a year 3 more hours of school in terms of full day kindergarten, or transporting 800 Metuchen public school kids every day on the bus? The amount on the Jan 13th handout for busing regular kids is $412,000 and that includes the busing to East Brunswick Vo tech, the Engineering HS, the Marine Academy HS, and St. Francis.

Excellent idea.

How about moving busing to a pay for use system and put the funds to much better use for a full day kindergarten? There have been some excellent ideas to make this work without the extra cost for busing while maintaining special needs of course. The town is just over two square miles and I am confident that we can all work together to make this a safe experience for our children.

How does $1.5 million sound?

So what is the total cost of busing for the entire district? Can someone give us the total cost for the 2009-2010 school year? I know it was over $600k a few years ago. I would think that money could be better spent on other things.

yet we all drive our kids to soccer/baseball/dance/basketball/track/etc., leaving work early sometimes to do so and not always within Metuchen borders.

It is more then $500..

the full cost is way more than the $75 per kid they charge now.

Ahhh, but what is "full cost"? If a bus drives down an extra street one block off from the 2 mile cutoff to pick up a kid, what is the extra cost? Keep in mind that those parents are pretty much already paying full cost for the kids that are already on the bus.

Is it fair for me as a taxpayer to pay for busing when my kid isn't eligible for it while my neighbors one block over only pay $85? How fair is that?

There is no answer on the poll for the one I want to give, which is: Parents who want courtesy busing should pay the full cost of it, with financial aid for eligible families.

I would worry more about them being hit by a car than about perverts. Bad drivers are way more common.

Some of the HS kids ride the commuter shuttle. Takes a while, but they stay warm and dry.

Is there such a thing as bus passes anymore? Where a student can ride a public bus for a reduced fare?

Let the parents that send their kids on the bus pay half. $25 a month would pay for half the kid's cost for riding the bus. We live 1.9 miles from the H.S. I'm already stressing about when our kids will need to walk in the dark, cold, snow, rain, heat...not to mention the perverts. I would gladly pay $25 a month to know that my child is getting to school safely.

25 minutes to ONE school. Add one or two more schools to your routine, factor in parking and waiting for dismissal and then add drop-off and pick-up and you've got at least one hour if not more. If you don't have kids in school or have busing as an option but chose not to use it you aren't in a position to decide how other families are managing things.

and i don't get the impression that the article is asking should we choose between special needs and busing. it's not even saying its the schools responsibility. when i was a kid, we walked to school with the kids in the neighborhood and it was great. mom or dad met us at the door. its just not like that now, it can't be. now what?

Busing costs in Metuchen are well above $500.00 per student including your per child subsidy of $85.00.

One of the issues is that special services for special needs children are mandated, they're not optional. Also, Metuchen attracts a large proportion of special needs students to the district because of our philosophy & policy of inclusion. Even if bussing for everyone else is eliminated, we would still have to bus the special needs students, apparently until they are age 21.

We don't use the bussing for our kids. Why put my child on a bus for over a half hour to get them to a school that is five minutes away? We trade off car pooling with a neighbor for the Edgar kids and walk our Campbell child to school in good weather.

I would welcome the complete elimination of courtesy bussing. I am confident I am in the minority.

carve out an hour or two to drive the kids to school? Are you talking about Metuchen? I live by the high school and once in awhile have to drive my child to Edgar, I make it there and back in 25 minutes. Also make it from Edgar to Campbell when needed in 10 minutes after school. I also hope you understand that even though it's "courtesy busing" it's sill $85.00 per child.

Excellent idea.

There is a large community of work-at-home parents in Metuchen. I suggest the community get together to create "walking groups" where work-at-home families can alternate walking kids from one side of town to the other.

This would help increase exercise for our children, avoid any "dangers", & also avoid any additional budgetary spend by our district. Not a parent of school age children, but wanted to share my suggestion ...

I understand this might not work for special needs children, but the existing "buses" can likely support the handful of special needs children we have in our community with limited additional cost.

The article wasn't talking about the kids that are being bused in town, but about the kids who were not being bused in town.

It is a difficult issue, because no one wants to have to say no to a special needs child. Who wants to do that? The question is rationing our limited school dollars. Are our dollars going to educate the most kids, or is it being spent on a few? What is fair?

All I can say is amen. That's why the question was asked--what prompted the article? We began with a theme containing the perils of kids walking to school and no mention of the costs associated with busing kids to school. As for special needs, I would like to see you tell a parent that we are not supporting their child's required attendance that facility. The kids being bused in town have it easy compared to a child on a two plus hour sojourn. Again who pays for it and how much is a different matter. Are you saying no to special needs children before you say no to a child who has more alternatives?

Fair? What does fair have to do with it? Is it fair that special needs kids use a bus but the majority of other kids don't have that available? Is it fair that they have additional resources while resources for the average student go unmet?

Does anyone remember what fair actually means? Is it fair that my tax dollars go to other school districts for programs that are not offered in Metuchen?

As for the people taking the original article to task, did you actually read the article? Teri covered the topic briefly and then asked what people thought.

And I do pray for the school board members. I pray that they will look at the money available and confront the issues that actually will make a difference. I pray that they will remember that education is the main goal and all other things should be secondary to that main goal.

That is part of the problem. Busing kids on a one hour ride to Burlington County or Monmouth County. The other 50% is the kids in town. The issue is what is right and reasonable and fair. I do not think I have heard anyone yet call for cuts. Nor do you have to. You just have to pay more. Now, where you get from is another story.

Tone, that is in the heart and not the head. People do not like to face fear. That's what we are dealing with here. Fear. I am not running and you can not either. The issue is solvable. We all would have been a lot better served if the published attachments placed on the school board web site which contain the numbers on bsuing were added. That does not make Teri a bad writer, in fact she is a very good writer nor hard working nor honest. But if you write a news blog be accurate. If you look at what the school board is dealing with right now you would be praying for them.

If you look at the spreadsheet you'll notice that much of the increase comes from Special Education bussing, not bussing within Metuchen.

Teri, George, and Jana have put together a great forum for Metuchen discussions in a few months with hard work, dedication and real insight. It's OK to criticize, but why does the tone have to be nasty?

Thank you. By the way, I would hope individuals from other towns view this site. First, Teri does a good job. No question. Money makes people emotional. It should. People are losing their jobs, their homes and their futures. However, there were few facts in Terri's opening theme. The spreadsheets on busing from the school board point to a very difficult situation for Metuchen. No one is going to win this on emotion. It is a numbers issue. Let's be clear. The school board is working on the issue right now. They had feedback from residents I am sure they are going to have options. They will revolve around making do with what we have. To be clear, you are paying more for busing in Edison. Hindsight is 50/50. Finally, if I were you, I would comment on how we spend our budget because the state is still pushing merger and I would want to know about as much as I could about Metuchen as I would Edison.

I think the crab need may to go back to school for a reading refresher. It doesn't say anywhere that the school district should pay for additional busing. If fact, it says the district can't. Go back to Montel unless you have something productive to add.

I am from Edison and I do not comment on how to spend your budget. I am a friend of Teri's and I know she is a busy mother of three. She clearly asked for suggestions. By the way, there are people from other towns who view this website.

Please. I would like to hear how Teri came up woth this story. It is going to get solved. The issue is big enough that either parents pay more or kids walk more. But there is no more money. I do not want to see Metuchen flame down a school budget over this. As I recall you are from Edison and you are paying a lot more for busing are you not?

Let’s get our points across without insulting the writers. It takes up a lot of time to write up these issues-it is much easier to come up with drone anonymous remarks that solve nothing.

Teri what prompted this one? Someone finally clued you in to the millions being spent on busing in a two square mile town? That it is one of the biggest increase items in the budget this year? Why don't you tell people the numbers along with the emotion. The school board felt compelled to put out a number of spread sheets this year. It is a double digit increase.. Here is fact--school board budgets are capped in the single digits; people are flat broke; Metuchen is not going so well at getting kids to college. Looks like we have to spend more there to get kids to college. No one I know wants to fire school staff or cut maintenance and it costs a lot more then the $500 you suggest in the poll to bus kids. Finally, we are getting less money for the state then more this year. Little less emotion and fear please and a little more fact so people will understand.

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  • Anonymous: Who reads the articles? read more
  • Anonymous: And for the above 2 posts, thank you very little read more
  • Anonymous: The info from the previous two comments has been available read more
  • Anonymous: 18A:39-1 Transportation of pupils remote from school. 18A:39-1. Whenever in read more
  • Anonymous: http://www.state.nj.us/education/finance/transportation/faq.htm Frequently Asked Questions Of The Office Of Student Transportation read more
  • Anonymous: Why do we bus kids to St. Francis? read more
  • Anonymous: Since there is no bus service offered at all to read more
  • Anonymous: There are at least 120 kids in kindergarten every year read more
  • Anonymous: High School kids should walk, the younger kids should get read more
  • Anonymous: What's better, giving 70 kids a year 3 more hours read more

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