A bi-partisan bill could see full school buses pulling away from J.H.S. 194 once again.
Legislation passed by the State Senate and Assembly — that now awaits Governor Andrew Cuomo’s sign-off — would allow seventh and eighth grade students in the city to regain eligibility for school bus service.
In May 2010, the city Department of Education (DOE) announced it would end yellow school bus service for more than 4,000 seventh and eighth grade students throughout the city, as part of a “cost-saving measure.”
Community leaders said the move crippled neighborhoods like College Point, where they said there is no local middle school. Students at J.H.S. 194 in Whitestone, they said, were then forced to travel on city buses to get to and from school — their commute often totaling two hours.
Now, the new law initiated by Senator Andrew Lanza — 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 — could restore yellow school bussing to city middle schoolers.
“It’s about time that we see a common sense solution to a ridiculous problem,” said Councilmember Dan Halloran. “The city literally left these kids out in the dark, adding hours to their commute to school.”
In 2010, Staten Island legislators instantly took the issue to state court due to their lack of public transportation services. State Supreme Court Justice John Fusco ruled the decision to eliminate school buses in Staten Island — as well as College Point — 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 DOE, parents and students at J.H.S. 194 were not informed that bus service was cut until 24 hours before the first day of the school year. The message was delivered by phone in an automated message, according to parents.
“Students in College Point were forced to spend up to an hour-and-a-half taking two or three city buses just to get to and from school. We can’t expect junior high school students to make two bus transfers to get to school every morning,” Halloran said. “It’s not safe, and it’s not fair to them. These are 11-year-old kids.”
If the governor approves the bill, the changes are slated take effect this September.
– Additional reporting by Bob Doda