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Hazardous Busing School's Responsibility, Councilman Says

Bridgewater council, however, agrees to pay the bill for 2011-12 school year.

Hazardous Busing School's Responsibility, Councilman Says

Although it was approved overall, councilman Matthew Moench voted against a resolution concerning paying for hazardous busing, saying that it should be the responsiblity of the school district, not the township.

The council approved a resolution Thursday to pay for hazardous busing from the 2011-12 school year for a total of $272,584. The agreement to make the payment was approved in 2011, and this resolution just approved the actual payment.

But Moench said he would vote against it anyway.

"I historically vote against hazardous busing," he said. "I don't believe it should be a township responsiblity."

Township officials have said hazardous busing is paid for by Bridgewater Township because it has to do with conditions that are not controlled by the school district, including highways and road conditions.

Hazardous busing stems off of courtesy busing provided for students who live within a certain distance from an elementary, middle or high school. The state requires that every child who lives more than a mile-and-a-half from an elementary school, or two miles from a high school, be bused.

Hazardous busing is provided for those students who would not normally be bused, but who deal with some kind of hazard on the way to school, such as crossing a highway or walking across gaps in the sidewalk.

"It isn't mandatory, but if the school board doesn't offer it and there is an issue for kids [and we have to provide] police or sidewalks or crossing guards," said township attorney William Savo, "that could cost more."

Moench has said he would like to see the policy on hazardous busing re-analyzed to determine whether the district should be paying.

And, Moench said, there might be other options to replace hazardous busing, like working with such organizations as RideWise, a transportation management association based out of Somerset County. RideWise promotes a walking school bus to allow students to walk to school and pick up others along the way to walk with them.

"There are other alternatives for busing," he said. "Of course, a parent could also drive the child to school if they don't believe it is safe enough."

Still, Moench said, he believes the school board should be responsible for footing the bill in this instance.

Savo said the township also has to remember the possibilities of litigation if they do not pay for hazardous busing.

"We have some pending litigation and liability issues," he said. "If we have one accident with a child, the cost could be high."

"The police identify each hazardous busing area, they identify areas as a hazard and unless we find a way to avoid it, they offer the busing," he added.

But Moench said he still believes it should not be handled by the township.

"I think it's the school's responsiblity to provide a way for all kids to get to school," he said.

Do you think paying for hazardous busing is the responsibility of the township or the school district?

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