LAKEWOOD – With the school year already underway, it’s chaos over courtesy busing in at least one of the Catholic high schools serving Lakewood, as some parents and school sources allege a disparity between the busing service provided to Catholic schools which comprise a minority of the private, religious schools covered by the newly created Lakewood Student Transportation Authority, with Lakewood being known for its number of Orthodox Jewish yeshivas.
The program creating a new private corporation to administer publicly-funded courtesy busing for private, religious school students in Lakewood is off to a rough start, for some Catholic students at least.
According to a source employed by a Catholic high school serving Lakewood residents, Lakewood’s minority population of Catholic school students have been getting the raw end of the deal – with parents and students waiting around for buses that never came, and frustration is beginning to grow as a result.
The source was not officially authorized to speak with the media on the matter, but spoke with Ocean County Politics on the condition of anonymity. The source had first hand experience dealing with the busing deal’s implementation, said that parents, mainly of Lakewood’s first-generation hispanic community that attend both Saint Joseph’s & Donovan Catholic high schools continue to grow frustrated by a lack of information surrounding the new deal on busing, citing a lack of communication from the new corporation created to oversee millions of taxpayer dollars injected into Lakewood by the state under the 3-year pilot program.
Calls from frustrated parents to both schools continue on a daily basis, after LSTA officials pledged to resolve the issues surrounding competitive bids for busing.
Krawiec Defends LSTA Response
We reached the busing consortium’s Avraham Krawiec, who acknowledged that the two Catholic schools were still behind in bus route coverage.
“Calvary which has bussing their routes weren’t picked up at bid and yet we were able to get a vendor to take their routes,” Krawiec said, defending the LSTA’s response.
“St. Joe’s and ambassador and Donavan Catholic all bus together and have had one of their two routes picked up by a vendor.”
One of the ongoing issues facing the LSTA is issues associated with the bidding process to pick up additional bus routes to meet demand.
The lack of the second route has been a major sore point for both of the Catholic high schools, who have reported that dozens of students are without transportation since the changes taking effect this year under the new pilot program approved by the state.
Bill Lindsey, a longtime Lakewood resident and parent of a student affected by the busing dilemma, told us that he and many other parents waited in a long line outside the offices of the Lakewood Board of Education to get answers, as no parents were notified that control of busing was delegated to the LSTA, and Lindsey claims to have not received any bus pass or other correspondence since the beginning of the school year.
The Lakewood parent said he waited outside with his son for school buses that never came, forcing him to have to drive his son to the Catholic school he attends, which was supposed to be covered under the busing bill.
“We are working hard to get the other route picked up for them,” Krawiec said in a statement. “All the other Catholic schools have chosen to stay with the BOE as far as we are aware.”
Parents are expected to raise additional concerns at the next meeting of the Lakewood Board of Education.
When asked about what efforts the Lakewood Student Transportation Authority will take with respect to transparency, since the private corporation is not subject to the Open Public Records Act, nor are they required to hold open public meetings, despite being given the responsibility of administereing millions of dollars worth of taxpayer money.
“As per any opra requests and the like regardless of whether we fall under the opra guidelines the LSTA plans to be a transparent entity,” he said.
As of this article, The Lakewood Student Transportation Authority still has a non-functional public website and phone calls made to it are directed to an automated prompt. No public information has been released about the bids for busing by the agency, unlike local and county governments that publish bid documents on their websites.
Despite reassurances from the authority, the Catholic school source remained unconvinced. “The kids that are going to the yeshivas have a bus, the kids going to the Catholic schools do not.”
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