Almost every day of the week, Valley Stream freshman John Valencia stays after school at Chaminade High School for various clubs. But because of local school district busing policies, he routinely struggles to find a way back home.
Occasionally, he carpools with one of seven other students at Chaminade who live in the Valley Stream Central High School District. Other times, he waits for his parents to drive to the Mineola-based private school in rush-hour traffic. If he is alone and his parents are busy, John must take a Nassau Inter-County Express bus for roughly an hour and a half. He is unable to do his homework during the ride because the bus is often too crowded for him to even take his work out of his backpack.
“I can’t have him lose an hour and a half of study time,” said his mother, Johanna.
Meanwhile, private-school students who live in the neighboring Malverne School District can take a designated late bus home, as mandated by district policy, which provides them with after-school transportation when there at least 15 other students living in the district who use the service.
Malverne’s buses pick up students from Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale, Sacred Heart Academy in Hempstead and Holy Trinity High School in Hicksville at 5 p.m. and at Chaminade High School at 6 p.m. The students are then brought to designated bus stops, one of which is two blocks from John’s house.
But he is not permitted to ride those buses, according to Johanna. She said that she once asked the bus driver if John — who must be involved in extracurricular activities if he wants to be in Chaminade’s honors program, could use the bus. She explained how close the bus stop was to her house, but was told that because John lives in the Valley Stream Central High School District, he could not ride the Malverne bus.
“It’s all about the dollars you pay toward this,” Johanna said of the Malverne taxpayers who fund their district’s late-bus policy.
The Valley Stream Central High School District does not have a policy for late busing at private schools, which worried Lori Lang, another Valley Stream parent, whose daughter, Ava, is likely to attend Sacred Heart Academy next fall. “There’s no feasible way for your child to get home every day,” Lang said. “In today’s world, I don’t feel like that’s OK.”
Lang asked Central’s Board of Education at its Oct. 9 meeting if it could implement a policy similar to Malverne’s in its 2019–20 budget. She suggested that the board enter into an agreement with the Malverne district to share buses for the three or four private schools with the largest enrollment of students in the Central High School District. If the board did this, she said she believes Central could receive tax incentives from the New York State Education Department.
“It’s the most important issue to the taxpayers to the Valley Stream Central High School District,” Lang told the board, adding that there are almost 800 private school students who reside within the district’s boundaries. “We’re respectfully asking that you give time and due consideration to the transportation needs of our non-public school taxpayers and their children.”
Historically, the state education commissioner has upheld that “public school districts are obligated to provide late-bus service to nonpublic schools where such service is provided to the public schools for pupils ‘in like circumstances,’” according to the department’s website, but the commissioner has also said that a district is not mandated to provide such services if there are not enough private-school students to make doing so economically feasible.
Superintendent Bill Heidenreich told the Herald that he would need to look into the financial impact of implementing such a policy. Lang suggested the Board of Education thoroughly consider her proposal.
“When there’s a will, there’s a way,” she said. “And I think they need to entertain this.”