About five months after Lori Lang asked the Valley Stream Central High School District Board of Education to implement a policy that would provide private-school students with after-school transportation, Superintendent Bill Heidenreich said he would not recommend that the board move forward with the request for the next school year.
In his announcement at the Board of Education meeting on Feb. 12, he said that providing late buses to every private-school student who stays after class for extracurricular activities would cost the district more than $1 million — a price, he said, the district would not be able to afford.
Currently, there are 189 students within the Central High School District enrolled in private junior and senior high schools, according to New York State Education Department records.
“Unfortunately, given our current state-aid package,” Heidenreich said, “ … I cannot recommend an increase in our budget of this much money for late busing.”
But Lang, a Malverne resident who lives within the Central High School District’s boundaries, and is the mother of a private school student, countered that the district would not have to provide late buses to every private school student, and would therefore not have to spend more than $1 million.
In September, she said, she received an email from Paul Overbaugh, the director of pupil transportation for the state Education Department, who wrote that a Board of Education could adopt a late-bus policy when a reasonable number of students request the service. He also wrote, however, that the district officials have the discretion to decide whether a late-bus policy is feasible for them.
With that in mind, in October, Lang asked that the board either implement a policy similar to Malverne’s school district, which provides late buses to private-school students when there are at least 15 eligible students living within district boundaries. Alternatively, Lang suggested Valley Stream’s high school district enter into in a shared-services agreement with the Malverne School District to provide late buses from the three or four private schools with the largest enrollment for students living in both districts. If the board entered into such an agreement, she said, the district could receive tax incentives from the state Education Department.
In January, Lang and other parents of private-school students asked the board if it could allocate two late buses to pick students up from the four most-populated private schools and drop them off at centralized locations. “We’re not asking him to pay for everyone,” she said.
Heidenreich said, however, that such a policy proposal would create a disparity in service for private-school students.
“On the surface,” he said on Feb. 12, “the proposal makes good fiscal sense — provide a service to a limited number of students in order to contain costs and respect our taxpayers’ ability to pay. However, as a public-school system, we must concern ourselves with equity issues, and not create a transportation system where there are some students who are provided with a service, while other students are not.”
Lang said after-school busing is necessary for private-school parents because their children may not be able to participate in after-school activities if they have no way to come home. “They’re removing choices for our students,” she said, and potentially robbing them of opportunities to expand their interests and college resumes.
Students at Chaminade High School in Mineola are also required to be involved in extracurricular activities to be in the school’s honors program, which presented a problem freshman John Valencia, who stays after school almost every day of the week. Sometimes, if his parents cannot pick him up on those days, he has to take a Nassau Inter-County Express bus for an hour and a half.
To remedy such situations, and ease private school parents’ concerns, Lang said that the school district should provide late busing as a return on their school taxes.
She also said the board could figure out how to implement a pilot late-bus program for the next school year, saying, “When there’s a will, there’s a way.”
Lang plans to raise the issue again at the Board of Education’s next meeting on March 12.