JACKSON – After initially bringing their concerns regarding transportation for children who live in Jackson and attend non-public schools to the attention of the Jackson School District Board of Education, several residents brought the issue to the attention of Township Council members.
The residents spoke during the public comment portion of the Jan. 25 council meeting.
In certain instances, students who attend a non-public school may be entitled to transportation provided by the public school district in the town in which they reside. Public school district administrators may choose to provide a payment in lieu of transportation to the families of non-public school students who qualify for transportation.
During the 2021-22 school year, the Jackson School District is paying $2.79 million to the parents of 2,794 students who attend non-public schools and do not receive transportation ($1,000 per student). District administrators said 246 students are being transported to and from 142 non-public schools.
Several mothers expressed concern regarding the situation during a school board meeting on Jan. 5.
Their primary concern was that they were not notified until August 2021 that the Jackson School District would not provide transportation for their children during the 2021-22 school year and would instead provide the $1,000 payment per child.
The school district’s decision to make the payment in lieu of providing transportation meant the parents would be responsible for their children’s transportation to and from school.
The Board of Education and the Township Council are separate bodies that act independently of one another.
During the council’s Jan. 25 meeting, resident Suri Robinson told municipal officials she “wanted to bring to your attention the issue of public transportation and safety that revolves around a growing number of Jackson residents who send their children to non-public schools.”
Robinson said thousands of children are not being transported to and from their non-public schools on buses provided by the Jackson School District and that “causes an issue of public safety. There is a lot of traffic, one school bus can replace more than 50 cars on the road, and unregulated carpools and vans are an issue of public safety.
“It is also a tremendous issue of quality of life. There are parents who are spending hours a day driving kids to school. I had to change my work plans at the last minute because I was informed there was no busing” for the 2021-22 school year, she said.
Robinson told the council members that during the 2022-23 school year there may be 5,000 children who live in Jackson attending non-public schools. She said if the Jackson School District does not provide busing for those children, that decision will put more cars on local roads.
When parents addressed the issue to the school board on Jan. 5, district administrators said they would try to provide earlier notice regarding transportation for the 2022-23 school year than was provided prior to the start of the 2021-22 school year.
“I am afraid we are going nowhere again. So I thank you for looking into this and investigating what can actually be done,” Robinson told the Township Council members.
The members of the governing body did not comment on the Jackson School District’s transportation situation.