Driving toward transportation solutions

School officials, parents target busing issues in Lawrence

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Improving communication and seeking ways to rectify transportation problems that have vexed the Lawrence School District and the private schools it serves since the school year began were the primary focus of a meeting between district officials, yeshiva leaders and parents in Superintendent Gary Schall’s office on Monday.
Earlier this school year, parents bombarded the district and its bus company, Inwood-based Independent Coach, with complaints mostly concerning children being picked up and not getting to school on time, getting home late and being on the bus for an inordinate amount of time — nearly two hours in some cases.
By adding 14 buses and revising routes that included changing approximately 115 pick-up/drop-off locations commutes from home to school and back were made shorter and more efficient, district officials said. Now the goal is to enhance the overall transportation system.
“We were trying to be as flexible as we could, but it came back to bite us,” Schall said, adding that by not adhering to the April 1 deadline for transportation registration created pickups not on the initial route lists.
Issues discussed at the meeting included, getting signage for buses so students know which ones are theirs, hiring bus matrons, the installation of video cameras, placing information on the district website alerting parents that substitute drivers are operating the buses and having designated seats for the children.
“You can’t foresee every problem, but if there is another adult on the bus that could solve some of them,” said Ilana Weinstein, a parent who was representing Yeshiva of South Shore, about having matrons on the school buses.
Weinstein and other parents noted the recurrence of bullying and other incidents on the bus that the driver cannot attend to when he or she is driving. Simplifying the incident report and using a check off format was also discussed.
Rivka Bohan, an administrator from Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway — half of the school’s 2,000 students are from the Five Towns — said the school was looking into using parents as matrons, but the number needed for its 40 buses — 240 — is “outrageous,” she said. “We are looking into cameras and video recorders [for the buses],” said Bohan, adding that live streaming could cost $12 per month.
Schall said that the district is targeting improvement through technology, including the use of online transportation registration, using GPS to track buses and installing video cameras on the buses. In addition, Lawrence will use mass emails, texts and phone calls to keep parents informed.
“We will have a pilot program for cameras in place by spring and evaluate its use,” said Schall, noting that he wants to hold these meetings three times during the school year.

Lawrence School District transportation
Total students         7,500
Schools serviced     205
Buses/vans            175
Daily trips              650
Daily stops             9,044
Miles covered         3,421
Greater than the distance from New York to California, 2,915.2 miles. (Google maps)
Source: Lawrence School District