College Point middle schoolers will have yellow bus service restored in the fall now that a bill has passed the state Legislature, lawmakers said.
Parents and educators held pre-dawn rallies and elicited tough words from local elected officials after the service was abruptly canceled last year, and those same residents were ecstatic when informed by TimesLedger Newspapers of the bill’s passage.
“I thought I had a better chance of becoming mayor than this bill passing,” said Darren Kaplan, a neighborhood parent who drove his 13-year-old daughter to school each day this year. “I’m the happiest guy in College Point.”
Back in September, parents whose children attend JHS 194, at 154-60 17 Ave. in Whitestone were informed less than 24 hours before the first day of classes that the yellow bus would be off limits to middle schoolers. The message came via a robocall from Principal Richard Garino.
Since College Point has no middle schools, youngsters then had to undertake grueling commutes in the morning or parents had to drive the students themselves while younger siblings rode, in some cases, nearly empty buses.
Bus service was yanked after the city Department of Education said a federal court ruling would have required it to provide busing for every middle school student in the city.
The DOE did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
The state bill, which was passed by both houses last week, remedies the problem by stipulating any city larger than 1 million people is exempt from that ruling, according to state Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Electchester).
But the bill does not mandate that the DOE provide the transport — rather, it opens up the option to provide it.
Luckily, according to Simanowitz, the department was on board with the idea and agreed to provide yellow bus transportation only to the students of schools that had previously received it before September last year. Schools in Staten Island, where the impetus for the bill originated, will benefit from the law in addition to cheery educators in Queens.
“We are extremely happy,” said Ann Lippert, parent coordinator for JHS 194. “The safety of our children was at stake.”
The reliable yellow autos will also improve a tardiness problem that developed when the students had to transfer between as many as three buses to get to class in the morning, she said.
Members of the College Point Civic Association and City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), who both had rallied alongside state lawmakers when the problem began, were pleased to learn of the bill’s passage as well.
“It’s about time that we see a common-sense solution to a ridiculous problem,” Halloran said.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2012 Community News Group