Armed with angry words for school officials, Mamaroneck School District parents lashed out at board members at last night’s meeting in light of a proposed plan to cut school transportation for some private school students.
Although no binding decisions were made at the meeting, the district floated the idea of potentially cutting school busing for approximately 100 private/parochial school students in grades 6-12, instead, providing vouchers for the students to take public transportation. The board reviewed factors such as travel times to and from school, distance from pick up/drop off, arrival time before school, grade levels and safety in deciding which schools would be affected; commuting times could vary depending on how close students live to public transportation.
The following schools would be affected as follows:
# of students
Average commute time
French-American School in Mamaroneck (upper school)
Rye Country Day School
School of the Holy Child
The Ursuline School
According to NY state law, all non-city school districts must provide transportation to nonpublic school students in grades K-8, who live more than two miles from school but no more than 15 miles, and students in grades 9-12, who live more than three miles but no more than 15 miles from school.
“[This is] based upon the assumption that all students would continue to request transportation vouchers for the entire school year. It certainly could change based on family decisions at this point, “ said Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaps, estimating that the school would save a little more than $149K by issuing Bee-Line bus and Metro North passes to students.
Still, many parents perceived the anticipated change as unbalanced, with sizeable trade-offs in safety and efficiency for, perhaps, a negligible cost savings. Other parents of private school children seemed angered that, as taxpayers who didn’t use school resources other than transportation, they were being given the short end of the stick.
“You talk about these children as if they were packages on a UPS truck,” said Mamaroneck resident and district parent Larry Farkas, who opposed the idea of kids being subject to inclement weather and potential strikes that could disrupt service.
Cecile Bassas, whose children attend the was taken aback by what she saw as unreasonable commuting times for students.
“An hour of travel within Mamaroneck seems completely outrageous,” she said.
And, although the school would no longer be legally responsible for nonpublic students if and when the change is put into place, it shouldn’t be an excuse to stop caring about their safety, said Michael Varin.
“I can’t imagine sixth graders waiting, in the dark during the winter, for a transfer—that just absolutely boils my blood," he said.
Responding to parental concerns, Board Member Linnet Tse defended the district's willingness to consider all possibilities in order to present a balanced budget.
“Although $150K seems like pennies relative to the size of our budget—when you look at the tax levy cap which is just over $2 million that we can increase a year—$150K is actually more than six-seven percent of that allowable increase," she said.
The Board will continue their discussion of school budget issues at a Board of Education meeting on March 20 at 7:30 p.m. The full presentation can be viewed on the district's website here.
Let us know what you think of the potential changes by taking the poll below. Stay tuned for Part II of the district's proposed changes, which include outsourcing as a second possibility.