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Thursday, October 23, 2014
Are we there yet?
Lawrence School District. responds to private-school parents’ busing complaints
Jeffrey Bessen/Herald
Yeshiva students who live in the Lawrence school district attend schools across Long Island including Brooklyn and Queens. Depending on the bus route, their trip could take up to 90 or more minutes or longer.

Responding to private-school parents’ complaints that their children’s rides to and from school were taking way too long, the Lawrence Union Free School District and the Independent Coach bus company held discussions during the Jewish holidays on ways to make the trips shorter and more efficient.

Superintendent Gary Schall said the district and the bus company changed some students’ routes, added buses, had drivers conduct practice runs and sought to coordinate drop-offs and pickups at schools that are closest to one another.

Lawrence’s transportation system is complex. More than 7,500 students are bused to more than 75 schools across Long Island, including Brooklyn and Queens, along more than 450 routes. Schall acknowledged that trying to accommodate registrants after the April 1 deadline contributed to the complexity this year, because those students necessitated pickups that weren’t included on the initial route lists. He said that the district would hold to the deadline next year.

The holidays, during which the yeshivas were closed, “gave the district time to regroup and look to see where the problems were,” Schall said. Students returned to school on Monday.

“We have a fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers, and don’t add buses until we demonstrate a need,” Schall said, explaining that the district added four vehicles to help alleviate the travel-time issues. Each bus costs $25,000, he said.

Angered by drivers who didn’t know their routes and delays that in some cases had their children on buses for more than 90 minutes, parents overwhelmed the district’s private-school liaison, Sarah Weis, with calls and emails in the first three weeks of school last month.

Lawrence resident Miles Fisher’s daughter attends North Shore Hebrew Academy High School in Lake Success. Until this week, her trip to school began at 6:25 a.m. and didn’t end until 8 a.m., when school starts. On the way home, her journey began at 4:45 p.m., and she didn’t get home until 6:20 p.m., Fisher said, adding that last year his daughter had a 50-minute ride.

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