Letter to the editor from Clay Kaufman, Head of School at Eagle Hill School
As many of us know, the Greenwich School District has long provided busing for both public and private school students, and it makes sense!
As traffic has become more congested, keeping cars off the road helps everyone, is kinder to the environment, and provides a safe way for students to get to school independently. What a sound investment of our tax dollars to directly help children and families.
Recently, the Greenwich Board of Education has made decisions to restrict its busing policy as it affects private schools, based on a Connecticut state statute. These restrictions have ended up targeting Eagle Hill School students in particular.
The statute states that school districts are required to provide busing to private schools if 50% or more of the students at that school are from Connecticut.
It does not specify the requirements of the school district if the number is below 50%. The district can still choose to provide busing.
Early this summer, the Board voted to end busing for Eagle Hill, well after families had already enrolled for the fall, because Eagle Hill’s enrollment had slipped under the 50% threshold. Thankfully, the Board reversed its decision in July in fairness to these families who had already enrolled with the understanding that busing was in place. However, this fall, once again, the Board voted to interpret the state statute on busing narrowly.
The past two years, Eagle Hill has been within a few students of meeting the 50% threshold.
As one of a handful of specialized schools that help students with learning differences, and with a campus very close to New York State, it’s not surprising that many families from the tristate area find they need Eagle Hill as one of only a few options for meeting their children’s educational needs.
They come to Eagle Hill with bright children with language-based learning differences, executive functioning challenges and attentional challenges. These children have struggled in school, and need an academic environment with carefully trained teachers who understand the way they learn. Under the current circumstances, we may well have to tell a family that even though we have space, we cannot take their child because they are from Port Chester, and would tip our balance so that all our Greenwich families would lose busing.
The state statute that sets up the busing requirement affects all schools in the state. Schools like Eagle Hill that are so close to the New York border, and serve such an important role in helping children who learn differently, face a unique challenge. We hope the Board of Education can take a more supportive view of the state statute: keeping cars off the road, helping local taxpayers, helping the environment, and helping our children all seem like reasonable goals.
Head of School
Eagle Hill School