SOMERS POINT — When budget cuts in the spring led to eliminating courtesy busing for the coming year, the safest way to get children to and from the district’s three schools moved front and center.
Couple the elimination of busing with the redistricting of the Dawes Avenue and Jordan Road schools, and in the weeks leading up to the first day of school, the details are still being finalized for the routes parents should plan for their children to arrive at school.
On Aug. 8, parents met with district administration as well as representatives from the NJ Safe Routes to School division of the Department of Transportation.
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The only area of the city that retained busing is the corner of Somers Point-Mays Landing Road and New Road, which serves the Somers Point Village Apartments and surrounding area. That section of the city exceeds the state's two-mile maximum distance for elementary students who walk to school.
Superintendent Michelle CarneyRay-Yoder said the district wants to gather input from all corners of the district and all segments of the community as they work with the Police Department to establish the best routes for students walking to schools.
As the school year begins, all preschool students will attend the New York Avenue School. Students in grades kindergarten through three will be enrolled at Dawes Avenue and the fourth- through eighth-graders will attend Jordan Road.
A father of two school-aged children asked CarneyRay-Yoder whether mapping the safest routes for the kids to travel to school included consideration for where registered sex offenders might be housed. The superintendent said she will be taking every concern of the Somers Point school families into consideration when she sits down with police Chief Michael Boyd and his team of traffic officers.
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Patrick Lahy, a transportation management specialist, sat down with groups of parents and tabletop-sized maps of Somers Point. He asked each of them to show where they saw areas of special concern on the routes to the schools. Those concerns could be traffic, broken sidewalks or no sidewalks or whatever they saw as an impediment to the kids getting safely to and from school.
Latifah Sunkett works with the Safe Routes to Schools program and said she focuses on infrastructure grants that will aid families with their school routes, from signage to help with pedestrian crossings. She will be working with the superintendent as well as the school principals in helping establish and encourage the safest routes.
Parents sat and mapped out routes from their homes to the schools and then made suggestions for where they felt crossing guards were needed. Others reviewed the district map that had suggested walking and biking routes to school.
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Meanwhile, Dawes Avenue Principal Doreen Lee showed a new video that explains how parents will safely drop off and pick up their students from the Dawes Avenue School. Parents are encouraged to spend a few minutes and watch the video to prepare for the new school year.
“We need the cooperation of all of our parents to safely get our students to and from school every day,” said Lee. Look for the video on the Dawes Avenue Parents Group Facebook page.
Those parents with concerns are asked to contact the superintendent’s office at 609-927-2053 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.