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The city will make it easier for College Point middle-schoolers to get home from class in Whitestone, but it has not budged on letting them do so in yellow buses.
At the beginning of the school year, parents from College Point had complained that the city Department of Education discontinued yellow bus service for middle-school children across the city, forcing their children on a grueling commute that in some cases begins hours before the first bell rang.
In response, starting Jan. 9 the city will combine two bus routes into a single trip that leaves from IS 194 in the afternoon and drops the youngsters in the middle of College Point, according to a spokeswoman from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
One bus will leave the school at 2:32 p.m. each weekday, and another will leave at 3:11 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and at 2:35 p.m. Thursday and Friday. The buses will first travel along the Q76 bus route from 17th Avenue and Francis Lewis Boulevard, but at 14th Avenue and Parsons Boulevard they will switch to the Q20 route, the spokeswoman said.
Otherwise, some of the children who live in the nether-most regions of the neighborhood would have to take the Q25, the Q20 and then the Q76, which parents say is too long and complicated a commute for youngsters aged 11-13.
Some parents, like Martina Singleman, already let her son take the bus in the afternoon because she can see if he arrived safely.
It is the mornings she worries about.
“I can’t do my job and function wondering if he got to school OK,” she said. “I drive him to school so I know he’s there.”
City Councilman Dan Halloran (D-Whitestone) said he will be pushing the city to get the same bus service for the kids in the morning.
“It would be a good step, but not an adequate long-term solution,” a spokesman for Halloran said.
Halloran and parents in the neighborhood have been pushing the DOE to reinstate yellow bus service for the isolated area.
Public transportation is fine for children in Manhattan and Brooklyn, where subways and buses are ample and schools are more densely located, Halloran has said on numerous occasions. But in College Point there are no middle nor high schools and no plans to build any for at least a decade.
The city’s blanket policy to treat all middle-school students the same is inherently unfair, according to the councilman.
“This is all about geography,” he said at a recent education meeting.
But the DOE maintained that the students have viable options to get home from class.
“DOE staff has met with parents at the school to address their concerns. Students are eligible for student MetroCards. A parent, based on where he or she lives, may still apply for a variance,” said a spokeswoman.
But the city’s hand might be forced anyway a bill passes in Albany.
State Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Electchester) said a bill that has passed in the state Senate and is currently under review in the Assembly would require the city to provide yellow buses for any student who lives more than a mile away from a middle or high school
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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