A year after dozens of students lost busing when it was discovered they were living too close to their schools, a group of parents voiced their frustration to the Massapequa School Board.
Board members and school officials discussed possible soultions to the problem which sprung up when a new software program that determines how far students live from their schools discovered that a number of homes that had been thought to be a mile or more from their schools, making them eligible for busing were actually less than a mile away.
With the new school year approaching, several parents said at the Board meeting last week, they received letters informing them of the situation in mid July, while others said they received no letters at all.
"Six weeks isn't enough time for me to figure out my life," said one parent who attended the meeting. "I am a fulltime working parent and so is my husband. Now I have to figure out how my children are getting to and from school."
About 112 families are affected by the problem, according to Superintendent Charles Sulc. The District has been searching for a solution, including the possible creation of a child safety zone on Sunrise Highway. But so far they've been unsucessful.
Sulc explained that the board does not have the power to change the mileage requirement.
"There's nothing in the regulations that allows the Board of Education to effect a change in the mileage standards of a particular school district," he said.
"What has to happen is there has to be a referendum brought to the community and the community would have to vote to lower those [mileage] limits."
Parents recently held meetings with school officials to try to come up with an answer and Deputy Superintendent Alan Adock suggested that for elementary school children, if a neighbor who lives more than a mile from the school agrees in writing to be a child care provider for a student who has lost busing, that child can receive transportation service if the parents also sign a form.
Another possibility that had been raised was that students could receive busing based on a legal theory called promissory estoppel, which allows relief to those who rely on a promise to their detriment.
But Randy Glasser, a lawyer for the District said that the doctrine wouldn't apply in this case.
"Unfortunately, the Commissioner came back to us and said that even if you have been provided the transportation in the past, they do not have an obligation to provide transportation in the future," she said.
Board members said they're as frustrated as parents about the situation.
"This school board you're looking at would put in a child safety zone in a minute if we could," Board President Maryanne Fisher said. "But we can't, it's against the law.
Board member Gary Bennett, pointed his finger at the State Department of Transportation Commmissioner Joan McDonald for not approving the safety zone.
"I've got to tell you that every single person on this board wanted to grandfather you people in," he told the parents. "We've got two [State] senators, [Kemp] Hannon and [Charles] Fuschilo; We have an Assemblyman who believes it should be a safety zone. The mayor of Massapequa Park wants to see the zone. It's endless people.
"I can't think of anyone who doesn't want [Sunrise Highway] to be a safety zone, except one person and she makes the decision. So here we are as a republic, a democratic-republic and one person gets in the way of a kid getting killed by an automobile."
Bennett also said he still holds out hope that the safety zone might yet be created.