Last week, local parents decided to conduct a boycott of school bus cluster stops around the Roslyn area as a way to further protest new school district policy on such matters.
The protest, according to a leader of the opposition, has been a success. "The Board of Education has been more receptive to making changes," said Harold Morgenstern, a Roslyn resident. "We are definitely pleased with the progress [that has been made] by being more receptive."
Morgenstern said his own children had their cluster stop changed after he expressed safety concerns to school district officials. Previously, his children had been picked up at an intersection of North Flamingo and Tara Roads. Now, they have been transferred to a mid-block pickup, one away from the intersection and in a residential area.
This past summer, the Roslyn Board of Education announced a new busing pick up policy, one that they have termed as cluster stops. Students in grades 1-5 would no longer be picked up in front of their houses, but instead would have to travel to designated cluster stops. In the past, such students were picked up in front of their houses. Kindergarten students will continue to be picked up in front of their homes.
Citing safety concerns, parents began to protest the new policy, first at school board meetings, then with the boycott, which began on Monday, Sept. 11.
A purpose of the new policy was to find savings in the annual school budget. Since school buses would be making less stops, district officials said the cluster stops would save the district $125,000 for the 2006-2007 fiscal year. Previously, nearly half of the 1,500 elementary school students in the district had been dropped off in front of their homes.
When opposition to the new policy surfaced, Gerald W. Dempsey, the district's interim superintendent, did say that the BOE would consider designating alternate locations for any busing pickups, including the mid-block pickup that solved the dispute mentioned above.
In other cost-saving measures, the BOE, according to published reports, has rearranged its bus fleet slightly. The district has 30 buses in operation. Four of them have been transferred from public school routes to private school pickups, a function that the school district, under state law, must undertake. In the past, the school district outsourced such busing responsibilities to private contractors. Parents have claimed that having less buses means overcrowding on the existing ones.
While protesting the cluster policy, school district parents have also noted that Roslyn is different from other Long Island districts in that many residential areas do not have sidewalks, thus giving grade school children no safe place to stand while waiting for the bus.
One parent has written to Superintendent Dempsey, claiming that the pick up spot at Deerpath and Round Hill Road is particularly unsafe, especially during periods of rainfall when driving on slick roads may cause accidents at that spot.
Meanwhile, Dani Kline, the current BOE president, reiterated that safety is the district's "primary concern." She said that the district will have review all concerns made by parents, including bus stop safety and seat overcrowding.