East Quogue woman gets school bus proposition on the ballot

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Beth Albert’s hard work has paid off: she has secured enough signatures to have a special busing proposition added to the ballot for Tuesday’s East Quogue School District budget vote.

Now, all the East Quogue mother of two can do is wait for the polls to close on Tuesday night to see if taxpayers are willing to spend an additional $34,000 next year—on top of the $20.3 million spending plan that’s being presented by the School Board—to provide transportation to all students attending the elementary school.

“The cost is a little high, but you can’t put a price tag on a child’s life,” said Ms. Albert, whose 6-year-old daughter, Emma, is a first-grader at the Central Avenue school. Emma currently is not offered busing because she lives too close to the school.

As things now stand, an estimated 25 students who live within a half mile of the elementary school, in the first grade and above, are not offered transportation by the district. However, all kindergarten students, regardless of where they live, are entitled to receive busing from the district.

If the proposition—slugged Proposition 4—passes Tuesday, the district will hire an additional bus, at a cost of $34,000, according to administrators, to provide transportation to the two dozen students who live less than a half mile from the school. This year’s school budget, which totals about $19.6 million, includes $1.1 million to cover the district’s transportation costs.

School Principal Robert Long did not return calls seeking comment on the proposition.

As with this year’s proposed $20.3 million budget, district taxpayers can cast their ballots on Proposition 4 between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Tuesday in the elementary school gymnasium.

In February, Ms. Albert circulated a petition that she later presented to the School Board in order to get the proposition included on this year’s ballot. She secured 55 signatures, 11 more than required.

In making her argument, Ms. Albert explained that students who walk to school must navigate several dangerous intersections that are not monitored by crossing guards. Ms. Albert, who also has a 3-year-old son, Cameron, also pointed out that several streets near the school do not have sidewalks, forcing students to walk either in the road or along the shoulder.

Ms. Albert, a guidance counselor with the Connetquot School District, worries that a student will eventually be hit by a car, or possibly abducted, if the busing proposition is not passed.

The proposition states: “Shall the Board of Education be authorized to modify student eligibility for public schools transportation by providing transportation for all students, thereby reducing for Grades 1-6 the existing one-half mile (1/2) mile limit to a new zero (0) mile limit, effective September 1, 2008, which modification would result in an increase to the 2008-2009 budget in the approximate amount of $34,000, and to levy the necessary tax therefore?”

If the proposition is rejected, Ms. Albert said she will continue to seek other solutions to address the problems she has raised. She explained that she has already contacted Southampton Town to inquire about the addition of more crossing guards. Another alternative could require that she petition the town to install sidewalks along certain roads.

“I think there is a very good chance this will pass,” Ms. Albert said, referring to the busing proposition.

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