Greenfield School Committee aligns busing policy with current practice

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By ANTHONY CAMMALLERI

Staff Writer

Published: 04-11-2024 6:36 PM

GREENFIELD — The School Committee voted Wednesday to expand its busing policy for elementary school students by half a mile, allowing students living at Leyden Woods, Oak Courts and Greenfield Gardens to continue being bused to school as is the current practice without the district being in non-compliance with its own transportation policy.

Until now, the Greenfield School Department’s policy allowed elementary and middle school students living more than 1.5 miles away from their school, and high school students living more than 2 miles from their school, to take the bus. Since the district already buses students from the three housing complexes, which are located less than 1.5 miles but more than 1 mile away from their schools, the updated policy, which qualifies students in grades K-4 living more than 1 mile away, will keep the district’s current practices closer to compliance.

“We are being guided by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees. The changes are largely to bring our policies in line with the law and also to bring them up to best practices,” School Committee Chair Glenn Johnson-Mussad said. “I really want us to be in line with the law and best practices, so I encourage approval of this.”

The Policy and Program Subcommittee voted unanimously to approve the policy change at its meeting last week. The subcommittee originally considered shifting the busing radius from 1.5 miles to 1 mile for students at all grade levels, however, Superintendent Christine DeBarge said the bus company could not accommodate the expansion for high schoolers.

“If we were to bus the high school students a mile farther, then the bus company would need possibly three additional buses. … There are about 130 students who would get added to the bus runs,” she said.

School Committee member Elizabeth Deneeve noted that having worked as a bus driver for the district, she noticed that most high school students living within 2 miles of Greenfield High School seem to prefer to walk to school.

“I couldn’t imagine how they would want to do that, but they do it all the time,” Deneeve said. “Having a mile radius [for elementary school students] would probably be very helpful for a lot of parents and families, and I think that would be a great addition to what we could offer.”

The School Committee voted to temporarily suspend a rule mandating that the proposed busing policy amendment be read and voted on twice — once on Wednesday and again in May — in an effort to vote the change into effect immediately.

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Johnson-Mussad abstained from voting, while all other members voted in favor of the revision. Member Stacey Sexton commented that the change will impact the committee’s plan to redraw its district map so that students who reside at Greenfield Gardens would be sent to Newton School, Leyden Woods to the Discovery School at Four Corners, and Oak Courts to Federal Street School.

“Updating the policy to reflect practice technically does impact some of our considerations regarding redistricting,” Sexton said, “and how we will provide transportation moving forward to students whose parents opt to keep them in their school, even if it is not the one that they would be redistricted into.”

Anthony Cammalleri can be reached at acammalleri@recorder.com or 413-930-4429.