FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP (Hunterdon) — Parents in this rural school district have lost a years-long battle to have a bus pick up their three elementary school children from their driveway.

The parents appealed the district's 2014 decision to locate the bus stop 0.9 miles from the family's home on River Road.

Until the the bus stop was moved, school buses would pick up the children at their front door. But the district said this was problematic because to get to the home, the bus had to drive over a bridge that could not support the bus's weight. The bus also had to use the house's driveway to make a K-turn — something the district's policies prohibit buses from doing.

School districts in New Jersey are required to provide transportation for elementary students who live more than 2 miles from school and for high school students who live more than 2.5 miles away. Districts also have wide discretion in determining bus routes and stop locations by considering safety hazards and traffic concerns.

The parents in this case argued that the district's decision to move the bus stop less than a mile from the home was "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable." An administrative law judge who heard the case in May disagreed.

The bus stop requires the children — ages 5, 9 and 12 — to walk a winding country road with no sidewalks. Administrative Law Judge Joseph A. Ascione's decision says the road's grassy edges are “obviously not unsafe for pedestrians to use.” He also noted that the speed limit is 25 mph and the road, which is wide enough to allow two cars to pass, has not been deemed by the state to be a hazardous highway.

Before the district made its decision, officials investigated options. Ascione said the "investigation was thorough and involved experts, physical inspections of the route and ultimately a determination that the path to the bus stop was safe as a walking route."

The state commissioner of education this month agreed with the judge and dismissed the parents' appeal.

 

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.