Parents of students at three private schools who were told that busing provided by the township would not be available for the 2015-16 school year have worked with the district to find alternatives that may ultimately resolve the issue.
One of the two busing issues involve students who attend Christian Brothers Academy and Red Bank Catholic in Monmouth County. The other involves students who attend St. Paul’s Christian School on Herbertsville Road in Brick. In both cases, bus routes bid out by the Monmouth-Ocean Educational Services Commission did not receive bids. Legally, the Brick school district was required to allow the multi-county agency to bid out the routes.
Since no transportation was available, parents were entitled to a payment in lieu of bus service of $884, but that cost would not have covered a privately hired bus. The parents have been pleading with the district to help resolve the issue since, in some cases, they have already paid thousands of dollars in tuition but find themselves with no way to transport their children to school.
“It sent us into a tizzy,” said Eunice Jinks, a parent of a student who attends CBA. “One bus company gave us a cost that was so high, it was ridiculous.”
After some days of pouring over statutes and various options, the parents of children at both schools and the district seem to have reached solutions.
“It’s going to be now about the commitment,” said Interim Superintendent Richard Caldes.
Parents of the CBA and RBC students will be able to use a portion of the state statute that allows a school district to transport students to private schools if the parents pool their reimbursements and fund the remainder of the route themselves. The cost to each family will likely be several hundred dollars, but that is still a far cry from the thousands it may have cost otherwise.
“It’s less than half of the lowest cost we were quoted,” to reimburse Brick for transportation costs, Jinks said.
Caldes said he would be putting together an agreement for parents to sign indicating their interest and requiring upfront payments for the school year. For the agreement to work, enough parents must agree to pay for the bus.
“In good faith, we’re going to need a fee upfront that pretty much guarantees you’re going to do it for the year,” said Caldes. “I think we’re in good standing and we’ve done very well so far. We just need to confirm.”
In the case of St. Paul’s, Caldes said after a conversation with the school principal Wednesday, it appears as if transportation can be provided for less than the $884 reimbursement cost.
“There is a possibility where we could provide transportation that would be lower than the aid-in-lieu number. There would be some considerations and trade-offs, but it would be a viable way to get the kids to school,” said Caldes. “It is a process, because the difference in those private companies that were solicited is they’re for profit. We’re not looking to make any money off you, we just want to cover our cost.”
Caldes said the issue of private school transportation emerged this year since he became superintendent and reviewed applicable state laws and regulations.
“You have statutes and you have administrative codes,” he said. “I’m following them.”