Written by Carisa Giardino Friday, 18 September 2009 00:00
The new school year got off to a shaky start for some in town when an unanticipated snag in the newly implemented Garden City School District transportation policy, which affects a total of 118 district students, suddenly left another 22 students residing in the Estates section without any bus transportation to Stratford School.
Catherine Knight, a district spokesperson, confirmed last week that there was a bus issue at Stratford School that affected 22 students on the first day, Tuesday, Sept. 8.
Knight told the Garden City Life that when the district’s transportation supervisor, David Murphy, was conducting the final bus routing utilizing updated G.P.S. software, he discovered that students from two homes on Stratford Avenue and from a section of Brixton and Kilburn Roads, north and south from Stratford, should not receive busing according to the district’s policy.
Knight said Murphy apologized to the school board and explained that he had hand-delivered letters to the affected families and is assisting them in any way possible.
Susan, a concerned Brixton Road parent whose child was one of the 22 affected, said most parents found out about the change on Friday, Sept. 4, just days before the first day of school. As of Sept. 10, she added, some parents still had not received formal notice.
Now there’s a real concern for child safety as 8, 9, 10, even 7-year-olds must walk or bike across a four-lane, high traffic boulevard twice a day.
At the Sept. 10 village board meeting, trustees were soon alerted to a “Nassau Boulevard Safe Passage Initiative” - which represents 21 of those affected children in the Estates section.
“Our children are 7, 8, 9 and 10 years old in grades two through five and none have ever been permitted to cross this busy, four lane divided boulevard by themselves before,” the Brixton Road resident said. “This is a common sense decision made by parents in the area supported by facts that in the last six years, there were 27 accidents with 13 injuries reported at this very location and many more which went unreported. In addition to the tremendous amount of traffic on this boulevard, there are several other safety issues at this crossing which concern the entire community.”
Parents argued that current conditions at the intersection of Stratford Avenue and Nassau Boulevard are not ideal for elementary-aged children. Drivers are permitted to make a right on red at three of the four corners, which further adds to the danger of both rush hour and school dismissal times, parents said. No pedestrian cross box featuring “Walk” or “Don’t Walk” or a timer or hand indicating when it’s safe to cross further adds to the problem, as does the 12 seconds to make it across and the lack of signage in the area indicating to drivers that a school is nearby.
“As we describe these conditions, please picture your own 7 year old or 10 year old, maybe your niece or grandchild and bear in mind that these children do not yet have the decision-making skills required to navigate Nassau Boulevard on their own and certainly not under the present road and traffic conditions,” the Brixton Road resident said.
Members of the Nassau Boulevard Safe Passage Initiative respectfully requested immediate action to safeguard the area.
Namely, members are seeking an “immediate safety solution to these inadequacies” through the placement of temporary village personnel to act as crossing guards between the hours of 7:30 and 8:15 a.m. and again at 2:45 to 3:30 p.m. until a permanent, village-funded guard could be hired; three additional “No Turn on Red” signs to be placed at the northwest, northeast and southeast corners, signage to be placed on the east and west sides of Nassau Boulevard, between Stewart Avenue and Newmarket Road alerting drivers of children in the area; an updated crossing indicator box with digital countdown read out be installed on both the northwest and northeast sides of Nassau Boulevard and Stratford Avenue and the county be contacted to – at a minimum – double the timing to cross the street from 12 seconds, as one parent calculated, to 24 seconds.
Mayor Robert Rothschild, who learned of the issue over Labor Day weekend, said the board of trustees and the school board are two distinct bodies ruling on very different issues, though all for the good of the residents of Garden City.
“But when something like this happens,” he said, “fortunately or unfortunately it winds up that the village board of trustees really has to jump in and do something because we need to get involved with Mr. Mangan and all their contacts, with the Town of Hempstead as well as Nassau County to try to get us info as quickly as possible.”
Mayor Rothschild continued, “We’re going to attempt to get some things changed on that corner. We’re going to have to teach our children that they need to push that button when they cross that street and they will get 25 seconds to cross the street,” the mayor, who was told that by the county just last Thursday, said.
Parents, however, said they walked across the boulevard just that morning and counted up to 13 seconds, which, one parent said, is generous because it’s usually only 12 seconds. “I dispute the fact that that’s doubled,” she said. “I don’t believe it.”
The mayor, who has been in contact with the county, urged parents to continue to be diligent in making sure it’s a safe corner for the time being. “It’s obviously something parents need to be in charge of first but the village will do everything to help at this intersection,” he assured.
Members of the Nassau Boulevard Safe Passage Initiative are now looking into a class to teach children how to properly cross a roadway.
Members believe the requested changes would not only benefit children in the immediate area but also the wider Garden City community as they walk, job or bike in and around this location.
A young Stratford School student affected by the policy changes took it upon herself to gather signatures before the start of school Sept. 10 for a petition that is now circulating.
Back in July, the Garden City Board of Education adopted the changes because the district’s policy was inconsistent with state law. Board members agreed that revised routes would eliminate busing for students living less than one-half mile from the village’s primary schools – at first Hemlock, Homestead and Stewart schools and now Stratford School.