October 11, 2006
Traffic Alleviated, Bus Still Needed
Parents from Southampton's Our Lady of the Hamptons School who say their children are subjected to overcrowded bussing conditions and intolerable morning delays are still sounding the battle cry for another bus.
Students from O.L.H. appeared before the Southampton Town Board recently with their principal, Sister Kathy Schlueter, to plead for help with traffic woes that they say are causing up to two-hour delays in students' arrival time.
Since then, the County Road 39 project has been restored, and while parent Kerry Wilkie said the students have been arriving at school in a more timely manner, the larger issue of overcrowded buses still remains.
And, she said, "We have to remember that in inclement weather, there are no cones."
Students at O.L.H. lost a bus after budget cuts in the Hampton Bays school district brought the number of busses down to three for 164 students. By law, a public school district must provide busing for private school children who live in the district.
The missing bus has caused problems, Wilkie contended. "Traffic or no traffic, some are on the bus for an hour and 25 minutes." If there were fewer stops to alleviate the amount of time spent on the bus, that would solve overcrowding and would allow the busses to get to the canal sooner and get a jump on traffic, she said.
Wilkie's daughter rides on a bus that makes 26 stops every morning; the bus has 61 children. "They say that's allowed," said Wilkie, who said the overcrowding has become a safety issue.
She is also concerned about the impact of additional traffic generated by students who will be attending the newly reopened Stony Brook University at the Southampton campus.
She pointed out that children with special needs have not been given a van, as reported elsewhere; the students have, instead, been put on an already existing East Quogue bus.
Hampton Bays School Superintendent Joanne Lowenthal said the district will continue to work with O.L.H. "Right now, the foremost issue is to get the traffic pattern corrected. That's the real issue."
Lowenthal added that Hampton Bays was forced to cut in-district service, too, and increase the number of students per bus on the 66-passenger busses. Although the school is no longer on an austerity budget, the district had to cut more than $250,000 between the May and June vote, and those cuts have been reflected across the board. "All schools have been affected," she said.
"It's very upsetting," said Wilkie. "I respect the traffic issue, and the town went out of their way and got things moving quickly. But if there is an accident on that bus, it will not be good."