Last week, TLS gave readers the opportunity to submit their questions to the LSTA.
We submitted the questions to the LSTA, and below are the answers.
“Disclosure- questions are listed as they were submitted”
1.If Williams Street is a hazardous street why are children crossing it? Also why is a high school girl able to cross Williams Street? A car speeding down the street or going thru the flashing red light in a bus is also dangerous for them.
Depending on age, parents are responsible for their children crossing streets. Older children can cross the street while looking out for oncoming cars. While ideally, we would like to only pick up all children on their side of the street. Road conditions make that an impossibility. The Lakewood Police request that any vehicle observed passing a School bus with the Stop sign out, be reported to them immediately.
2. Hi, I wanted to know why, if I am paying $260 per child this year because I live a 5-minute drive from my boy’s school, then why are my boys being picked up first, being taken all around Lakewood and are on the bus for 45 minutes? Every other driver picked them up last and went straight to school. This year my boys are being picked up first, and have to be out of the house at 8:03, when school starts at 8:45 and I can drive them there at 8:35. And with leaving so early they get to school either right when the bell rings or after the bell. When I called the bus company, they said the driver makes the route, when I spoke to the driver, she said it’s because where she is coming from. When I tried explaining to her that it makes sense to go to the opposite end of town when there is no traffic and start the route there instead of driving into traffic, she wouldn’t hear. So, if my boys are sitting on the bus and being taken all around town, like someone who lives way further, why am I paying this fee?
Thank you for your time.
- The non-mandated fee help cover the cost of the non-mandated student for which there isn’t any funding. The cost for each such student on average is about $900. The State deems a child non-Mandated if they are in grades K- 8 student and resides less than 2.01 miles from their School or if they are in grades 9-12 and live less than 2.51 miles from their school. (This is based on the shortest walking path). Our funding is based only on distance and no road conditions or the like.
- In general, routes begin at the furthest distance from the school in the mornings and vis-versa in the afternoons. Drivers do have some leeway to alter the route based on conditions on the runs. Please reach out to our office at [email protected] or text 732-787-7287 so that we can look into your specific situation.
3. With the shortage of busses and drivers why are non-mandated children’s still given the option to pay a portion and get bussing. Shouldn’t we be concentrating on the mandated ones first? They are the ones that live the furthest and hardest to get to school. After the mandated ones are assigned a route and there are extra buses available at that point offer to non-mandated?
Routes with mandated only students for the most part aren’t financially feasible since they will only cover students’ livings furthest from schools. Mixing Mandated and non-mandated students allow us to make shorter and better routes. We work to make our routes as efficient as possible for students and drivers. Having shorter routes also help keep bus companies working here and enable them to tier their routes.
4. Most developments in Lakewood are made too narrow for busses to pass through. I live in Pine River and have had a stop on Pine St. and Ponderosa/Warren for a few years. There should be bus stop on the main road outside of developments for every development (besides Westgate which should only have one on Hillside). This will make the routes faster and more efficient.
We agree to your comment and are working towards that. That is currently how most high school students are serviced. We always look for more centralized stops. Keep in mind though, that there is much opposition to your suggestion, and based on our requests for changes received from parents, most people are asking for closer stops (not on main streets).
5. We stand at the corner waiting for our bus and watch three separate school busses pick up one child at a time all going to Oak Street. Wouldn’t it make sense to have one bus pick up a few schools all in the same street? It would cut the need for so many busses and drivers etc. They do this in Jackson now. Why not implement it in Lakewood?
We have been advocating for schools to combine for years, in fact we actually made sample routes demonstrating the efficiencies of combined routes. We can’t force Schools to combine routes and have heard opposition from schools regarding this suggestion. Routes would also be substantially shorter and would help with other logistical things as well.
We applaud and congratulate Yeshiva Toras Emes and Yeshiva Mesoras Hatorah for combining their routes this year. In 2021-2022 those schools were missing multiple routes, and due to combining routes, they are mostly covered.
6. If you are a non-mandated student there is a fee of $260 for the year. If you know you are moving towards the beginning of the year, but you don’t have a moving date or new address yet (which may be out of Lakewood, and you may no longer be eligible for bussing through the LSTA), can there be an option to pay monthly or quarterly? We’re talking about a case where the bus stops by your corner already and has extra room.
It seems that the rule that you need to pay for the whole year is so that people shouldn’t take advantage of the system and opt out in middle of the year because they don’t like the driver or their child wakes up too late etc.
Can there be partial year options just for people that are moving? $260 may not sound like so much but when you have multiple children in school it really adds up, especially if you may end up only using the bus for a month or 2.
Previously, to due to seat constraints we did not offer seats for partial year. If a student is on from the beginning of the year, we are obligated to pay the bus company for the entire year. If a student wants to join for a limited time, that may fill the bus and prevent a student that wants to join for the remainder of the year. That being said, there are specific circumstances that it may be possible to work this out and we will consider adding that option.
7) I would like to know how the LSTA justifies allowing courtesy bus routes to be picked up before every mandated stop in Lakewood is picked up. How is it that children who can walk to their prospective schools are awarded a bus stop yet children who live miles from their school are left stranded.
I was told by someone who works at the LSTA that mandated stops are not monetarily preferable. (But of course, making money is)
Courtesy Bus routes should not even be allowed to be bid on until all mandated stops are picked up.
A very frustrated parent who is constantly getting to work late due to no bussing.
Please see answer to question #3.
8. Hi, I pay for the bus sincere I live more than 2 miles from my child’s school. The morning bus gets to school at 10:00. Is there a way I can pay less and opt out of the morning route but keep the afternoon transportation?
Obviously 10:00 AM arrival is not acceptable, we are hopeful that by the time you read this, the issue will have been resolved. If not, please reach out to us at [email protected] or text 732-787-7287.
Partial opt-ins are complicated as we generally pay based on a complete AM/PM route.
10. I’m so grateful my kids have bussing this year! However, my kids have very long routes! If there was a way to make the routes work by neighborhood and join schools together (Oak St. schools, Cross St., Oberlin etc.) it would cut so much time off and alleviate so much traffic!!!
Great question (we agree with you). Please see question # 5.
11. I would like to understand why there are bus routes in Jackson and Toms River, but many in Lakewood do not receive bussing.
The LSTA doesn’t run any routes outside of Lakewood. Jackson Township has in some instances combined schools and provided bus service. Some routes in other surrounding districts have been privately arranged by Parents/Schools at a cost higher than what the LSTA can legally pay per route.
12. How do I go about getting reimbursed if my child’s run is not picked up by any bus company?
In November, Schools will be sending home “Aid in lieu” forms to be filled out for Mandated students. Checks are disbursed twice a year and will be sent home by the school.
13. I have a child in 2nd grade and I’m wondering why Lakewood needs to have an LSTA as opposed to most other towns that the BOE runs their bussing?
The LSTA was founded to provide bussing for as many non-mandated students as possible. Prior to the LSTA, the state monitors had ruled that the Lakewood BOE cannot bus any non-mandated children. At that point it would have affected 7,500 students, at this point it is close to double that number (so over 15,000 students would not be bussed).
14. What is the LSTA budget and operating expenses?
The LSTA budget is $28,000,000. Our operating expenses (which include rent, legal fees, accountant, auditor, insurance, salaries for 5 full-time employees and 3 part-time employees, routing program and all office expenses) is about 3.5% of the overall budget.
15. Why do so many kids not have bussing this year, especially smaller schools?
We are experiencing a driver shortage as well as increased competition from Out of District routes. It is important to understand that we can pay bus companies based on the number of students on a bus. The maximum for an AM/PM route is $1,022 per student per year. Therefore for a smaller school, in order to reach a significant number of students, the route will typically need to be quite long, thereby making the route unserviceable from a bus companies’ perspective. That being said, of the close to 40,000 Lakewood students, there are about 3,100 empty seats (AM or PM) meaning 92% of students have bussing. Of the 8% not covered, much of them are new schools and small Mesivta’s that typically don’t get picked up by a bus company. We are still working to get the remaining 8% covered.
16. My kids’ bus is constantly getting to school late, why is this happening and what are you doing to fix this problem?
Some of the timing issues are due to the initial startup. Bus companies have been adjusting their tiering to make sure the scheduling is working. Over the last couple of weeks, we have seen many issues resolved. There are still lingering issues and we are working to get them resolved. In order to make sure we are aware of any issues; we have asked the schools send us reports of their arrival and departure times.
Additionally, busses have the same road challenges that we all have at peak times. We have requested the Police Department deploy officers at key intersections during peak hours to keep the flow of traffic moving.
17. Why is it so hard to get through to the LTSA and bus companies.
We understand your frustration. The LSTA has recently added a texting line with a very quick response time. We find that this problem is mostly applicable during the first few weeks of the year. We are flooded with calls during that time and each call can take quite a while to complete. It is virtually impossible to get to all calls during that time unless we hire an answering service which wouldn’t help much as they would just be passing along questions. Email or text is usually responded to quickly.
Regarding the bus companies, much of the same applies for them and we are encouraging them to establish a Direct School line and to be proactive in notifying schools of any issues.
We thank all those who submitted questions. Please feel free to reach out to us – [email protected] or Call/text 732-787-7287