Students from Montclair High School’s Civics & Government Institute (CGI) addressed residents and town officials at Dr. Renee Baskerville’s 4th Ward Community meeting Tuesday night.
The CGI students gave a presentation detailing the difficulties high school students face getting to school if they live in the 4th Ward. The state only requires a bus to be provided to students who live over 2.5 miles from the high school; many students live close to but under that distance in the South End. The alternative is to take a NJ Transit Bus #34, but even though you might have seen crowds of students waiting for the bus after school, the stop is not an official one. CGI students described the stop as a “courtesy stop,” meaning drivers have the option to stop — or drive on by, something that happens if a bus is running late or often in bad weather conditions.
CGI students Misty Avinger and Kim DePass lead the discussion, stating how the group’s biggest goal in meeting with stakeholders (Montclair council members, the town manager and transportation officials) was to ensure a more reliable source of transportation for students by getting NJ transit to make the high school an official stop.
Avinger spoke of how the issue has been a problem for decades for 4th ward students. She also said because the stop was not on the route, students are often late to school and incur detentions, and aren’t able to participate in before and after school activities. The transportation issue also means students who want to take a 0 period class may not be able to get a bus in time or have to take one very early, arriving at school to wait before school is even open.
CGI students looked at alternatives but found that subscription busing through the school would cost more than riding NJ Transit. Assistant Superintendent Kendra Johnson commended scholars, and said the district plans to write a letter of support to NJ Transit to making the courtesy stop an official one.
Johnson said the NJ Transit option is a better one because the bidding out on a new bus would be $85,000-90,000 —
more than $500 per student.
The process still has a ways to go. DePass explained that the students have submitted a petition, but the town and NJ Transit have to approve the change. “The township’s traffic control unit will do a field study. If they find the location is not safe, then students will ask NJ Transit to move the spot to a safer location nearby. If the location proves safe, the township will give NJ transit the go ahead.”
Baskerville, who offered her support, also praised the students’ initiative. Baskerville added that numbers are critical to get the change made, and encouraged the students to get community support.