Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Middletown Considers Adding Public Bus Stop At Farm Hill School


June 23, 2010

Clara Sancho, who does not own a car, has been largely unable to visit her son's elementary school for four years, but she hopes the Middletown Transit District will help change that by adding a public bus stop at the boy's new school, Farm Hill Elementary School.

School officials and the North End Action Team have asked that the bus stop be added so North End parents — whose children have been reassigned to Farm Hill as part of recent redistricting changes — can become part of the school community. One hundred fifteen students from the North End and the Traverse Square public housing development will attend the school in September.

More than 40 people attended a transit district public hearing last week to try to convince the transit district's board of directors that Farm Hill needs a bus stop.

"There's overwhelming support for the change," said Thomas Cheeseman, the transit district's administrator. "It's a logical move."

The board of directors is also considering adding other bus stops in Middletown — at the new Price Chopper supermarket on 855 Washington St. and along the medical corridor at 400, 410 and 412 Saybrook Road — and one in Cromwell at PriceRite, 136 Berlin Rd.

Cheeseman said he thinks the board will vote next month.

Supporters say the proposed Farm Hill bus stop would be a crucial link between school and home for parents without cars. They said it would allow parents to more easily attend parent-teacher conferences, parent teacher association events and pick up sick children.

School administrators encourage parents to become involved in their children's schools because they believe it improves academic achievement, said Pat Girard, Farm Hill's principal.

Izzi Greenberg, NEAT's executive director, said North End parents also want to fight the misperception that they don't care about their children's education because they don't attend school events.

Greenberg said that neither Farm Hill nor Van Buren Moody Elementary School — which some North End students attended — has a public bus stop or sidewalks.

The proposed change, Greenberg said, would give North End parents more self-respect, smooth their transition into a new school community and "level the playing field."

Sancho, a mother of three, said she has relied on the kindness of people such as Greenberg to drive her to Farm Hill but would love to travel there on her own. The school is about 2 miles from the North End.

Sancho's trips to her son's current school, Moody, have not always been smooth. Once, Sancho said, she took a taxi. The cab driver drove in circles around a construction detour and got lost, she said. At the end of the trip, which should have been three miles, the taxi meter read $50. Sancho had $20.

The driver threatened to call police, but Sancho gave him the $20 and walked away.

This fall, she hopes to avoid such drama.

Reprinted with permission from the Hartford Courant

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