HOWELL – Residents of several neighborhoods told members of the Howell K-8 School District Board of Education they are unhappy with new bus stops that have been established for the 2019-20 school year.
The residents spoke at the board’s Sept. 4 meeting on the eve of the new school year.
Board President Mark Bonjavanni said the person to whom comments should be addressed is Ronald Sanasac, the assistant superintendent for business administration.
“I want you to know each case is looked at individually and in fact a few modifications have already been made,” Bonjavanni told parents. “The changes that were made, not the modifications, are the result of over two years of planning and discussions.”
He said safety is always the board’s concern.
Resident Shaquana Tolbert lives in the Verdana development off Route 9 near Sunnyside Road and said she wanted to discuss what she called “unfortunate changes” to a school bus stop.
The bus stop about which residents are concerned is at the corner of White and Conover streets.
“I have several concerns in regard to the changes. I am one of many parents who has concerns. You (Bonjavanni) mentioned that the priority of the board is the protection of our children … the location you put our children at (for a bus stop) is not safe; it is a hazardous situation for (parents) and our children,” Tolbert said.
“You have us going through a fire zone, an emergency location, to get to the bus stop. We (Verdana residents) live on Route 9 … There are no sidewalks, there is glass, there is no lighting, there is wildlife and there are going to be 25 to 30 little children walking in the street without a sidewalk and it is not safe for our children at all,” Tolbert said.
She said Sanasac “told us the route was changed due to the bus being able to access the gate. I have the notification that went around our community and our management agreed to have the gate open at 6 a.m. and that gate was to be closed by 5:30 p.m., which would permit any buses to get into the gate without any problems,” Tolbert said.
Regarding what she called “blockage,” Tolbert said, “There was never a blockage of any other buses ever getting into our development. There are still other buses that are going to be coming into our development picking up other children from their door.
“So if those two issues were the issues of our buses not getting in, why are there still buses that are going to be picking up other kids? We have people who are going to be impacted by these bus (stop) changes,” she said.
Board member Cristy Mangano said she was contacted by concerned parents and went to Verdana to inspect the location of the bus stop in question. Mangano said she would not want her child at that bus stop.
“I have driven out to this (bus stop) to see what kind of situation they have. It is an awfully long walk, there is a long gate involved in this, there is an emergency vehicle, there is a building with fire access codes on it, I do not know what that building is,” Mangano said.
Other residents of Verdana also expressed their displeasure about the situation and said many parents and guardians would soon be walking children to the bus stop in the dark.
Board member Ira Thor said he knew the parents would raise concerns about the issue because the board did not inform the community about what was going to occur.
“This is why I voted ‘no’ on this last time. This is why, going forward, I implore this board that when we have a topic we feel the community has expressed interest in, we need to publicize it. We cannot be surprising people,” Thor said.
Resident Marni Kaiser lives on Coddington Court in Candlewood. She said her son attends the Taunton School and said his bus stop was moved from inside the cul-de-sac to the corner of Coddington Court and Aldrich Road.
“Aldrich Road is a very busy street,” Kaiser said.
Kaiser said her ill mother watched the boy get on the bus from the door, however, with the new location of the bus stop, Kaiser said her mother will not be able to see her son get on or off the bus.
“He is only 7 and (my mother) can’t leave the house,” Kaiser said.
“We have to move these stops,” Mangano said. “Safety has to be the priority; putting kids in danger on dark streets and walking to different stops; anxious and nervous parents worried about their kids missing the bus; parents worried about how are they going to get off the bus.”
Referring back to the new bus stop at Verdana, Mangano suggested that her fellow board members visit the location.
“Honestly, it does not sit well with me. We can’t accommodate every child in the district, but (Verdana) is a bigger development. How can we say put the kids on the street? There is glass, there is garbage, there are no lights, it is dark, parents get down the street, there is a big fence out there, no sidewalks. It really needs to be looked at,” she said.
Regarding cul-de-sacs, Mangano said, “Those maybe have to be taken into consideration. I mean, you know not everything is black and white. This is too black and white.”