Northwest to stop transporting students to schools outside 10-mile limit

By Mark Guydish - [email protected]
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UNION TWP. — The Northwest Area School Board has voted to stop transporting students to non-public schools “located outside of the 10-mile limit, per the school code,” beginning this fall. The move appeared to be prompted by a request from two parents who have children attending Wilkes-Barre Academy.

Ambria Kramer, a director at the academy, said the district declined the request, even though it had provided transportation for a student to the Wilkes-Barre school previously. She also claimed Northwest Area has transported students to other non-public schools that are more than 10 miles beyond district boundaries.

Under state law, districts are not required to provide any transportation, but all local districts do. If a district does transport its own students, it must provide transportation for nonpublic school students to any non-profit school within 10 miles of the district boundary.

For Northwest Area, district boundaries are the south border of Union Township, the south and west borders of Huntington Township, the west and north borders of Fairmount Township, and south and east borders of Hunlock Township, as well as the west border of New Columbus Borough and southern border of Shickshinny. According to Google maps, Wilkes-Barre Academy is at least 11 miles from the southeast corner of Hunlock Township.

Prior to the meeting, Director of District Operations Elizabeth Ellis said she did not know how long ago the district started transporting students beyond the 10-mile threshold, adding the district has also been transporting students to the Wyoming Seminary Lower School in Forty Fort, nearly 12 miles from the Hunlock Township border.

“I cannot answer why it happened,” she said. “I understand there is a long history of doing it, according to our bus contracts.”

She added the problem was discovered after the requests for service to Wilkes-Barre Academy were made.

Noting relatively recent installation of new transportation software, Ellis said the transportation director “put it into the system and found out it was beyond the 10 miles.” Ellis said both she and the transportation director drove to Wilkes-Barre Academy to check the computer results.

“Our district ends at the Garden Drive-in,” she said. “I started there and drove right to the Wilkes-Barre Academy parking lot. I went several routes.”

They were all over 10 miles.

State law explicitly says students enrolled in a non-public school more than 10 miles (measured by the nearest public road) are not eligible for transportation.

“We have to vote on stopping it,” Ellis said.

The school board did just that Wednesday night in a unanimous vote.

Board chairman Leigh Bonczewski said the 10-mile stipulation also covers schools such as Good Shepherd Academy in Kingston and River of Life Christian Academy in Lehman Township.

Two parents from the Hunlock Creek area, Nicole Bojonny and Cody McMichael, called the policy “discriminatory.”

They had planned to send their children to Wilkes-Barre Academy next year but relied on Northwest Area to provide transportation. Bojonny said she is not sure what they will do with district transportation off the table.

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By Mark Guydish

[email protected]