Lakewood, NJ – It appears the Thanksgiving school bus debate in Lakewood is calming as bus companies say they’re willing to send out drivers on morning routes and private school say they don’t necessarily need buses on the holiday.
About 18,000 students — or three-fourths of the school-age kids in the central New Jersey town — attend Orthodox Jewish schools.
While the schools, about 65 in number, are private, the public school district is legally obligated to provide transportation for them. The school district hires several private busing firms for the job. And under state law, they’re required to transport the students whenever school is in session, Monday through Friday, September through June.
And unlike Christian private schools, the Orthodox ones aren’t giving students and staff the day off for Thanksgiving.
In years past, the schools have given the bus companies the day off.
But this year, some said they wanted their services. That set off tensions in the last few days.
School board lawyer Michael Inzelbuch said that one company put in writing that it would not send out drivers on the holiday, and two others said the same thing by phone.
But by Thursday afternoon, he said, things were looking better. He said all the bus companies said they would provide service, at least for morning routes.
Meanwhile, 10 of the schools said they would not need busing at all and more than 20 said they would need it only in the morning. He said most of the rest are still deciding what to do.
Inzelbuch has said he’d buy dessert for all the drivers who end up working the holiday.
“We are very confident this will all be resolved,” he said.