Empty buses at J.H.S. 194

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THE COURIER/photos by Bob Doda<br>
Assemblymember Simanowitz, Councilmember Dan Halloran and Assemblymember Ed Braunstein spoke to parents and students outside J.H.S. 194.THE COURIER/photos by Bob Doda
Assemblymember Simanowitz, Councilmember Dan Halloran and Assemblymember Ed Braunstein spoke to parents and students outside J.H.S. 194.
THE COURIER/photos by Bob Doda
Assemblymember Simanowitz, Councilmember Dan Halloran and Assemblymember Ed Braunstein spoke to parents and students outside J.H.S. 194.

At the end of the school day outside William H. Carr Junior High School (J.H.S. 194), some school buses pulled away from the curb with less than 10 students on board.

“The reason why they’re empty is because the Mayor is doing something that he claims will save money, but at the end of the day, we know it’s not,” said Councilmember Dan Halloran, who called a press conference outside J.H.S. 194 recently in an effort to put pressure on the Department of Education (DOE) and the Mayor’s office regarding the slashing of school bus service to students in College Point; many of them commuting more than two hours travelling on city buses.

Surrounded by seventh and eighth grade students, frustrated parents and Assemblymembers Ed Braunstein and newly elected Mike Simanowitz, the councilmember explained that the fiasco regarding yellow bus service began three years ago when Mayor Bloomberg decided to cut out seventh and eighth grade bussing as a cost saving measure; a decision that Staten Island legislators instantly took to state court due to their lack of public transportation services. State Supreme Court Justice John Fusco ruled that the decision to eliminate school buses in Staten Island – as well as College Point in Queens which does not have a Junior High School or High School – was made “without concern for the welfare and safety of the affected students,” according to a December 2010 report.

City officials took that ruling to Federal Court where Fusco’s decision was overturned on the basis that each student throughout the five boroughs must be treated equally. Due to a miscommunication in the Department of Education, parents and students at J.H.S. 194 were not informed that bus service was cut until 24 hours before the first day of school. The message was delivered by phone in an automated message according to parents.

While there is no longer any legal recourse, Assemblymember Braunstein mentioned a bill that recently passed the State Senate and is now in the Assembly Education Committee would restore bus service for middle school students citywide based on proximity to schools.

The bill is named Aniya’s Law after a 13-year-old Staten Island girl who was killed last June while crossing an intersection to catch a city bus after school.

“It’s a common sense bill that hopefully we’ll be able to get passed,” said Assemblymember Simanowitz. “But even if it doesn’t get passed, the city should get this done on its own. They shouldn’t be forced to do it by statute or by law.

Again, the elected officials pressed the issue of filling out safety variance forms that can be found on their respective websites or through the DOE website in an effort to return bussing to those that meet specific circumstances regarding hazards or unsafe conditions on their public transportation route. Primary concerns for College Point parents have been the crossing of Francis Lewis Boulevard and other busy intersections to catch city buses, registered sexual predators along bus routes and dark wintery conditions that can be expected in the coming months.

“The question is no longer ‘It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?’ We know where they are because they are 10, 11 and 12-years-old. The question is “It’s 8:05 a.m., do you know if your kid got to school safe?” said Ann Marie Murphy, a concerned College Point parent of an J.H.S. 194 student.