When parents at the Learning Center Charter School were told last winter that children as young as 5 or 6 years old would have to ride on a city bus to get to school, many of us dismissed the idea as absurd. No adults, we assumed, would allow children that young to travel unsupervised across the city under such unsafe conditions. Certainly no educators would do such a thing.
Now the Jersey City Public Schools plan to do just that; force young children to use bus passes to attend school. This is crazy. The District and the NJ State Department of Education (which runs the charter school program) must come up with a way to resolve this problem.
Recent reports describe the continuing segregation that exists in NJ's public schools. This segregation is the result of segregated neighborhoods rather than educational policy. Charter schools, in a small way, offer a partial solution, and a model, to cut down on school segregation. Children come from all over the city to attend these schools.
The Learning Community Charter School, where my son will attend 6th grade in the fall and my 5-year-old will attend kindergarten, has a student population from every neighborhood in Jersey City. Over the past four years, LCCS has been about 1/3 black, 1/3 white, 1/3 Latino and Asian, numbers that more closely reflect the diversity of Jersey City. But this diversity depends on busing.
While it may not be the legal responsibility of the Jersey City Public Schools to provide buses for charter school children, it certainly is their responsibility to help come up with a safe and reasonable way out of this mess. Making kids, most of whom are too young to cross the street by themselves, ride on city buses is not a viable solution.