As students start their third week of school, residents are headed to the polls to have their opinion re-heard on the issue of Smithtown Central School District transportation.
When residents voted on the annual school budget in May, they were also asked to vote on a proposition to cut busing. The reason: to save money. The referendum passed with a narrow vote of 3,915 to 3,055.
Concerned residents, outraged over sending 1,500 hundred more students to the streets as walkers — and those who said they did not understand the wording of the proposition — gathered at a June Board of Education meeting demanding a revote. After much debate amongst Board members (and an restless community), the Smithtown School Board of Education, with two new members seated since the original May vote, decided to hold a community revote. The earliest it could be held, barring election requirements related to public notification and the school districts desire to hold it after summer vacation, is today.
With an influx of students taking to the streets, Superintendent of Schools Ed Ehmann told the crowd gathered in June the town was looking into adding “walking lanes” along some of Smithtown’s streets. He also said the Suffolk County Police Department would decide whether or not to add four more crossing guards to the district’s 17 already posted.
Continuing Coverage: Smithtown Schools Bus Vote
Inspector James Rhodes, head of the Fourth Precinct, told SmithtownRadio.com a decision on adding crossing guards has not been finalized. He has already turned down Ehmann’s request to have a crossing guard at Route 347 and Terry Road in Nesconset because the roadway is simply “unsafe” for pedestrians. He says the school district has the right to provide busing to those students living too close to campus to otherwise be eligible if their path to school is obstructed by a dangerous roadway. Consideration for crossing guards at Smithtown Blvd. and Southern Blvd., in Nesconset; Smithtown Blvd. and Sheppard Lane; also in Nesconset; and 25A and Woodlawn Ave., in St. James, are still under consideration. Until a final decision is made, crossing guards have temporarily been posted at those intersections. A final decision will be made only after a painstaking roadway evaluation by the Suffolk County Police Department Highway Patrol.
The locations provided by Inspector Rhodes, with the exception of Smithtown Blvd. and Southern Blvd. in Nesconset, differ from the original suggested locations provided to residents at the June Board of Ed meeting.
Under the rules passed in May and currently in effect, students living within 1 mile of elementary schools and 1.5 miles of secondary schools are not eligible for busing. A reversal of those rules would return operation to its previous standards: transportation for all students on the elementary school level and for all students living beyond 1 mile of secondary schools. The transportation operation for after-school and sports buses has not been affected by recent cuts.
A “no” vote today means busing remains at its current levels.
- No transportation will be provided for students in grades K – 5 residing .5 mile or less from their school or more than 15 miles from their and,
- No transportation will be provided for students in grades 6 – 12 residing 1.5 miles or less from their school or more than 15 miles from their school.
- Transportation to private schools is provided for students living within 15 miles of their home. Schools greater than 15 miles away, such as St. Anthony’s High School, will be provided from a central location if any student living within the district is within the 15 mile limit.
A “yes” vote means that busing returns to its previous operation starting October 11.
- Transportation will be provided for students in grades K – 5 residing 20 miles or less from their school; and
- Transportation will be provided for students in grades 6 – 12 residing more than 1 mile but not more than 20 miles from their school
- Door-to-door transportation for private school students provided up to 20 miles away
If voters decide to restore busing, funding would come from budget reverses and would not lead to any cuts within the district.
Where to Vote:
Polling places are open from 6 a.m to 9 p.m. at Smithtown, St. James, Nesconset and Accompsett Elementary Schools.
Do you feel your voice has already been heard in this matter? How will you vote? Let us know in the comment section below.