WEST ORANGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A budget crunch has forced the West Orange School District to cut courtesy busing, but parents say that will create a major safety issue.
West Orange isn’t exactly a walkable town, with its steep hills, disconnected sidewalks and busy intersections. But that’s what some kids will have to do, CBS2’s Meg Baker reported Monday.READ MORE: COVID-19: Experts Say Delta Variant Spreads Quickly And Is Dominant Strain In Under-Vaccinated Areas
Buses will no longer be provided for approximately 670 students in grades 6 through 12 who live within two and a half miles of school, more than a half-hour walk. Superintendent Dr. Scott Cascone said, “The district realized the savings of approximately a half a million dollars. And it was, it was entirely a financial imperative.”
Parents and pedestrian safety advocates are asking the district to reconsider.
“To balance the budget on the backs of child safety is completely unacceptable,” resident Roz Moskowitz Bielski said.
“To walk 45 minutes to an hour walk with no sidewalks on the streets and 20 pounds of bags on your back is not safe. It’s hazardous,” parent Kevin Harrison added.
This new policy meets a state law which requires students living more than two and a half miles from school to get transportation.
Cascone said cutting busing for those living closer was done to save programs and staff positions.READ MORE: More Than 1,000 People Show Up For Party In Long Branch After Social Media Blast
“Class size, social-emotional supports, extracurricular activities,” Cascone said.
Many parents that spoke to CBS2 said they will be going back to the office soon, making afternoon pick-ups impossible.
Sangeeta Badlani’s 11-year-old son was killed by a distracted driver.
“It’s really going to disproportionately affect the vulnerable families, like single parents and two-household income families, because, you know, they don’t have the resources or time to pick up and drop off kids to school,” Badlani said.
The superintendent said he is working with the township to come up with a plan for more crossing guards, but parents want the Board of Education to rethink the decision and perform a traffic study exploring safe routes to school before implementing this plan in September.
Parents also questioned students’ options after extracurricular activities and sports, wondering if crossing guards will stick around at those later hours.MORE NEWS: Randolph School Board Overturns Decision Removing Names Of Holidays From School Calendar
CBS2’s Meg Baker contributed to this report