Students Protest School's Bus Dropoff Policy
By John Emerson
MONTICELLO It could have been a scene from the late 1960s Wednesday as Monticello high school students marched and picketed in front of the school bus garage over an issue of late bus transportation home.
I think its great, said Monticello school board member Joe Todora. They had an issue that was important to them, and they did something about it. I think something like this teaches a great deal about citizenship.
At issue between the district and the students is transportation home for those involved in afterschool activities, especially those involved with interscholastic sports. As a courtesy and a way to encourage participation in late-finishing activities, the district provides a late bus that carries riders to central dropoff locations. In some cases, those dropoff points were still several miles from the students homes.
Students raised the issue at a school board meeting last week. They were told the issue would be addressed and a reasonable policy regarding late event transportation would be established by transportation director Martin Gershowitz and schools superintendent Eileen Casey.
The intent was to bring these kids closer to their homes so their parents would not have so far to travel to pick them up, said Todora. Its my understanding that changes are being made as we speak, and extra dropoffs are being added. It was never our thought that they would be provided with door-to-door transportation. I dont know how well the district communicated the late bus schedule this year, and I think that was one of the problems.
Originally the late buses, which leave the school at about 4:45 p.m. after practice is completed, were sent to seven centralized dropoff points throughout the 190-square-mile district. Since the school board meeting and the students and parents protests, the district has increased the number of dropoff locations almost three-fold to 20 as of Thursday, and more are anticipated in the immediate future.
These changes only affect the 4:45 p.m. bus routes, Casey said. In the last two weeks, weve nearly tripled the number of dropoffs, and Marty [Gershowitz] is still looking at what we can do.
High School Principal William Stickney would not comment on whether the students involved with the protest and picket would face disciplinary action by the school.
I respect their right to make their opinions known, he said of the impromptu protest. Now that theyve gotten their ideas out, its time to go back to class and continue their education.
Casey would not comment on the student pickets that greeted passersby on Route 42 Wednesday.
We have been responsive to this, but I think there are some people who are not going to be happy unless we deliver each child to their doorstep, she said. If we were to do that, there would be some kids who wouldnt be getting home until 8:30 at night.
Casey said that the new dropoff points along the various late bus routes would be published in the school districts weekly newsletter beginning next week. She said that, as more dropoff points are added, those will also be publicized.
Anyone with concerns about a specific problem should direct their questions to Martin Gershowitz, the districts director of transportation.