The proposed district transportation policies for the Mamaroneck Union Free School District stand to dramatically affect all families in the Larchmont-Mamaroneck area – not just those with children in private and parochial schools.
“This is a high-impact, relevant issue for everyone in our community, not just the families whose children are in danger of losing their school buses,” said Svetlana Wasserman of Fair4AllKids, a non-profit group with nearly 500 supporters (http://www.thepetitionsite.com/369/918/231/fair-and-safe-school-bus-transportation/) working to ensure fair and reasonable policies. “There is no doubt these proposed changes will cause damage to many areas of our community. If people perceive this to be an issue that concerns solely those who have transferred students out of district, that is emphatically not the case. We strongly encourage EVERYONE to consider how these changes will impact your own children, your own school, your own lifestyle as residents of this vibrant and strong school district.”
The Fair4AllKids group, which has been rallying against the changes in order to protect the safety of children, cites a slew of negative impacts of the proposed policy. These impacts, which ripple well beyond the families directly affected, include:
· INCREASED CLASS SIZES - which translates directly to less one-on-one interaction time between District students and teachers. Some 430+ students currently enrolled in private and parochial schools are directly affected by the policy and may well return to district schools beginning in September. Our schools would need to re-absorb extra children – for example, 10% of the District’s sixth grade is attending alternative schools. The proposed FY 2014-15 Budget does not eliminate teacher headcount, because the District is already at capacity. With even more students registering due to large housing builds, private schools relieve District headcount.
· SUBSIDY REVERSES – Private and parochial students are 8% of this community’s students. Yellow buses are less than 1% of the School District’s Budget, before proposed transportation cuts. This policy will encourage students to either move or return to District, thus narrowing this gap to the detriment of all students in this community. Many students attending out-of-district schools have special needs and once they return, they will require costly additional services. All students bring incremental costs which will actually reverse the gap that has quietly supported the MUFSD budget over the years;
· INCREASED TRAFFIC ALONG THE POST AND PALMER ROADS DURING PEAK SCHOOL HOURS - Removing the buses that service both Hommocks students living beyond a 2-mile radius as well as the private and parochial school students will mean significantly increased traffic moving along major intersections during already heavily congested peak drop-off and pick-up times. Every yellow bus replaces 36 cars which will be back on the road if parents choose to drive rather than put their kids on public transportation.
· INCREASED TRAFFIC TO NON-PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN OUR DISTRICT - MUFSD Board Members have stated that, while they are among the first enacting this policy, they expect neighboring school districts to follow their lead. There are a total of 4 non-public schools within the MUFSD’s boundaries whose traffic will add to our congested streets during critical school hours. Our villages and town budget will have to absorb increased traffic flow costs (crossing guards, police presence near public transportation hubs, etc.) as this policy rolls out across Westchester.
· INCONVENIENCE TO COMMUTERS - People who rely on Bee-Line and Metro North will have to contend with increased crowding, noise, and rowdiness as more and more children are transitioned to public transportation. Routes will have to be changed to accommodate new high traffic areas, adding to the length of everyone’s commute. When incidents occur with lost or disoriented children, buses will have to be stopped until a police officer or supervisor can come to the scene, delaying all riders.
· DECREASED VOLUNTEER TIME, TALENT & TREASURE - Parent volunteers are the back-bone of this community. Coaches, Religious Education Teachers, District PTA volunteers and donors, MSF volunteers and donors, STEM Alliance volunteers and donors have always been comprised of a mix of public and private/parochial parents. Neighboring private schools share facilities with this community on favorable terms that enable our robust athletic programs to flourish. Our community needs these volunteers and services to remain vibrant.
· DOMINO EFFECT ON PROPERTY VALUES - Our district currently boasts some of the most coveted real-estate in the nation, largely a function of the strength of our public schools. Undermining the positive reputation of schools by increasing class sizes and diminishing services will inevitably have a knock-on effect in reducing property values in the area.
· POSSIBLE LEGAL ACTION AND ITS COMMENSURATE COSTS – This proposal fundamentally undermines state laws that work to protect the safety of children as they are transported to school. If the policy is approved, there is every possibility that affected parties will embark upon a class action against the district – the legal costs of which will not only completely negate any savings, but will in all probability cost the district significantly more than the proposed $140,000 savings.
“This issue is creating untold division and pain in our tight-knit community, in order to save money that will be lost anyway if the proposal moves forward,” Wasserman added. “We encourage all parents to attend the Board of Education discussion in the tiered classroom at MHS on Tuesday, April 8th at 7:30pm. That evening, the Board of Education will have the second reading and vote on the Revised Student Transportation Policy 8412. Please join us in not only protecting the safety of students that are currently bussed, but in protecting the educational structure and values so fundamental to our vibrant community.”