Letter to the Editor: Are They Public Schools?

A letter from Upper Falls resident Jerry Reilly on new school bus fees for the elementary schools.

To the Editor,

This year the school system changed their rules so that kids in K-5 who live between one and two miles from school now have to pay $310 to ride the school bus. This grates the parents in my neighborhood for a number of reasons:

  • Charging fees for optional activities is unfortunately the way things are these days but getting to school is not an optional activity.
  • No one in the school department is recommending that it is appropriate for K-5 kids to walk 3.5 miles round trip from our neighborhood to school every day.  The city seems to be treating this 1.6 mile bus ride to school as some sort of optional luxury.
  • The city chose to close many of the neighborhood schools over vehement objections of many residents. At the time they made all sorts of promises that they now breaking one by one (e.g. all Upper Falls kids will be together at one school). Now as a result of the decision to close our neighborhood school, the residents of Upper Falls as well as various other neighborhoods around the city are being given a $310 bill for transportation every year -- or $620 if you have more than one kid in school.
  • The traffic at Countryside (and I'm sure other schools) at the start/end of each day has already been a problem for some time. For those parents who have the option, some number of them will now start driving their kids and adding to the traffic rather than pay the fee.

If they are indeed public schools then all reasonable and necessary transportation to those schools should be part of the city's responsibility...especially since the city quite purposefully created the situation where a large fraction of the student population now lives too far away to walk.

--Jerry Reilly
Upper Falls 

mlai5241 September 14, 2011 at 12:31 PM
As a new family to Newton, we were surprised by the lack of direction and guidance provided by the school. Our son was bounced around quite a bit one afternoon after being put on the wrong bus. We expected a bit more for a paid luxury.
Charlie Shapiro September 14, 2011 at 03:00 PM
@mlai- Welcome to Newton! I would suggest that as a new resident you get involved in the political process. School committee meetings have a public comment period and it's a good place to make your views known. Meanwhile, the education is excellent and I hope you family has an overall wonderful experience with the schools. Again...welcome to our great city! Alderman Charlie Shapiro www.voteshapiro.org
Jerry Reilly September 14, 2011 at 07:32 PM
@miai - I'm sorry to hear you had a rocky start. The first day is always a ball of confusion ... though that doesn't excuse what happened. Although I'm not too happy about the new bus fees, my family is very happy with my daughter's school and teachers (3rd grade at Countryside). Welcome, and I hope your son settles in at the new school smoothly.
Emily Norton September 15, 2011 at 10:03 AM
Jerry you make excellent points - the city brought this situation on to your neighborhood when they closed your neighborhood school and now are adding insult by charging you to get your kids to school. Unfortunately more and more fees on parents seems to be the direction our school system is headed.


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