Published: Monday, April 02, 2012, 2:03 PM
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- After a three-year legal battle, the city will be re-instating yellow bus service for seventh- and eighth-grade students on Staten Island, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced today.
Walcott was joined by a host of borough officials as he made the announcement during an afternoon press conference at Laurie Intermediate School in New Springville.
Students who were eligible for the bus service prior to the city's decision to yank it will be eligible once again.
Walcott cited the city's newly-granted exemption from the "like circumstances" clause of the State Education Law as the city's reason for providing the service again.
City officials contended the clause forced them to provide bus service to middle schoolers throughout the five boroughs should they offer it on Staten Island, despite the lack of public transportation options for youngsters here.
A bipartisan bill spearheaded by state Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) and Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Mid-Island) passed both houses last week, granting the city exemption and removing that legal hurdle.
Walcott praised the borough's elected officials for working together and with the city to find a solution. When he met with Islanders, the bus issue came up over and over again, he said.
"One of the issues for us was like circumstances," Walcott said. "Through the excellent teamwork of all these individuals, we've been able to address that issue and as a result I'm here to announce that starting this September, seventh and eighth graders in the borough of Staten Island, and also those parts of Queens, will be eligible to take the yellow school buses."
The rules for eligibility will be the same as they were before the variance was revoked in 2009, Walcott said. The department is committed to finding funding for the services, and noted that state lawmakers are sending more money for education to New York City this year.
"We have more money that's been appropriated through the state to the Department of Education, so we'll find the money from there to pay for it, and we're confident about that," Walcott said.
"Again, how do we benefit our students? This is definitely one of the ways to benefit our students, especially on Staten Island," Walcott added.