By ERIN ROLL
Montclair may get another NJ Transit bus stop to help students get from the South End to Montclair High School in the mornings.
The extra stop is being discussed as a way to help address ongoing concerns over school transportation needs for South End students who don’t get public school busing due to living within two and a half miles of their school, according to school officials.
Parents and students have appealed to the district for years to expand school bus service to the South End. Much of the South End, except for a small portion near the West Orange town line and near the Rosedale Cemetery, does not meet the mandatory distance for free district-provided busing: two miles for elementary school students and two and a half miles for high school students.
In response to the community’s concerns, the BOE formed a sub-committee to discuss transportation issues.
The school district and NJ Transit are looking at plans to add an additional bus stop to the 34 route. There are bus stops at 7:30 a.m. and 7:44 a.m. in Montclair’s South End, said BOE Vice President Latifah Jannah. However, of those buses, only the 7:30 a.m. bus goes to the high school, while the other one terminates in downtown Montclair, some distance away from the high school. The district is in talks with NJ Transit to have both of those buses go all the way up to the high school, she said.
With the expansion, she said, the bus that stops at 7:44 a.m. in the South End would go all the way up to Chestnut Street and Park Street outside the high school. Jannah said she did not know when the revised stop would go into effect, and she emphasized that talks were still ongoing.
NJ Transit spokesperson Lisa Torbic confirmed that NJ Transit has been in talks with the Montclair schools about finding solutions to the busing issues, but was unable to provide any further details.
Jannah also said the district is looking at policies that would determine which students are riding NJ Transit buses to get to the high school, and make sure those students are not marked as tardy if the bus is delayed in reaching the high school.
Students and parents have reported that students riding district buses are excused if the school bus arrives late at the school. But if a student is riding an NJ Transit bus and the bus is delayed in arriving, those students are marked as tardy.
In 2018, NJ Transit and the township added a courtesy stop to the 34 bus route by Montclair High School, at the request of the students. The bus makes several stops at Montclair High School, at Chestnut Street and Park Street, during the morning, and makes several departures during the afternoon.
At the time, Fourth Ward Councilwoman Renee Baskerville said she hoped that the extra stop would be a temporary measure until the district was able to address the busing situation.
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to reflect the distances a student must live from school, depending on grade level, to be eligible for free busing.