Brick’s Nonpublic Student Bussing Declining

The bus lot on Chambersbridge Road. The Brick School district transported 826 nonpublic school students this year. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

BRICK – Scheduling some 8,922 students who are transported to public, private, vocational and special needs schools each day in Brick Township is a logistical feat.

And state law requires school districts to provide transportation for nonpublic students to their schools that are 2 to 20 miles from their home if it costs less than $884 per student.

If it costs more than $884 per student, the family gets an “in lieu” payment, said School Business Administrator James Edwards.

Most of the 826 nonpublic school students attend parochial schools such as St. Dominic, St. Paul’s, St. Joe’s and Donovan High School, Edwards said. There are no Brick students who are bussed to the Orthodox schools in Lakewood.

Unlike Jackson Township, which is seeing a surge in nonpublic school students largely due to the Jewish Orthodox population who are bussed to schools in Lakewood, Edwards said he was told that the number of Brick students who attend out-of-district schools is declining because private schools have been struggling with their enrollment numbers.

For the 2016-2017 school year, the families of 102 Brick students do not qualify for transportation and receive the in lieu payments instead, for a total cost of about $90,000, he said.

“For example, we have a family with two children who attend Calvary Academy in Lakewood. The cost for us to transport them to school each year would be greater than $1,768 (2 x $884) so they receive the in lieu payments and they are responsible for their own transportation,” Edwards said from his office on April 6.

He said it would be difficult to estimate the cost of bussing the out-of-district students since a full time driver might do a non-public run for two hours and day, which represents one-quarter of their pay and benefits.

“A driver might pick up at Brick Memorial High School and then go to St. Dominic. The students are driven separately because the schools have different start times,” he said. “The driver’s pay is not accounted for separately.”

Brick Board of Education Building
Brick Board of Education (Photo courtesy of Daniel Nee, Brick ShoreBeat)

In numbers provided by School Director of Transportation Don Wilson, the $4.1 million transportation budget includes transportation of 6,641 public school students who attend Brick schools, 512 public school students with special transportation needs, 589 students with an IEP and without special transportation needs, 96 out-of-district students who attend private schools for the disabled/special education needs, and 97 ELL (English language learners) public school students.

Also, 161 high school students are transported to vocational technical schools located throughout Ocean County, starting with a bus that is on the road at 5:15 a.m. to pick up students who attend the MATES academy in Manahawkin.

In addition, Brick School District has “jointure” agreements with other towns to transport each other’s students if there is a conducive bus route, Edwards said. The township only pays the cost per pupil for the jointure agreements, which needs to be less than the in lieu amount, Edwards said.

“There are many different ways of transporting the children to various schools,” Edwards said. “It is not an easy function.”