It’s an issue Montclair parents have been talking about for years — some say 26 years.
The lack of school bus service for Montclair High School students living in Montclair’s South End, due to what many feel is an archaic rule — only high school students who live more than 2.5 miles from the school they attend are eligible for district-provided transportation — results in many students struggling to get to school on time each day.
It’s not as though students in the South End can easily walk to school; the walk would take at least an hour, according to Google Maps. Many students rely on public transportation — an NJ Transit bus — which often proves unreliable, resulting in getting marked tardy and missing class.
The issue was raised again almost a year ago, but when September came, high school students continued to have to rely on public transportation to get to school.
Montclair High School senior Shayla George spoke at Tuesday night’s BOE meeting, saying how students in the South End still struggle to get to school.
“When a student is absent they are robbed of their class time. Bus tickets were just made available last Wednesday and that was the last day of the marking period. You can appeal the absences, but a lot of the students who are in the South End don’t have the resources they need to make a strong appeal or support,” says George.
George called for the BOE to look at the connection between unfair busing to the chronic absenteeism affecting Montclair High School and for the board to have student representation.
BOE member Latifah Jannah said the BOE understands the issue of a need for busing from the South End of town needs to be addressed. Jannah said she and BOE member Sergio Gonzalez are working together to look at ways and options to address busing as well as the concern about the process of obtaining NJ transit bus tickets.
“We hear you and are looking into it,” Jannah added.
Students weren’t the only members of the public to raise the need for a South End bus.
Janet Hubert, who lives in the South End, spoke of two Montclairs: white Montclair and black Montclair.
“Montclair is racially diverse but very racially divided, not so much by race, but by economics,” said Hubert. “We’ve been trying for 26 years to get a bus. Our children are taken off of their protective school buses at the age of 14 and 15 and this is because of an antiquated 2.5 mile rule. They are now supposed to get on public transportation — no matter how cold, late, or non-existent and at the mercy of NJ Transit service. I see buses picking up in Upper Montclair. Our children need a bus.”
Pluchet Alexander also raised the issue of safety, saying with car accidents and human trafficking, it wasn’t safe for students to be walking all the way to the high school from the South End. Alexander says that happens when a student misses the bus. If the bus is late coming to school, these same students get marked tardy or absent.