Lanning Square School bus stops continue to lack safety measures and other Camden School Board meeting highlights

ICYMI, highlights of Tuesday evening's Camden School Board meeting:

Two of the four people who addressed the Camden school board last night wanted to talk about the Lanning Square School(s), specifically the lack of a proper school and how young students are still waiting for the bus without any security or crossing guards.

Lanning Square is the elementary school that was found structurally unsafe and in need of demolition and whose students sent to Fetters and Broadway schools. The neighborhood was promised a new school, but it hasn’t happened. See my story here

In August, Lanning Square’s youngest students – pre-K through second grade – were shuffled again when the Broadway School was damaged by the earthquake. Now, they must take a bus from near Cooper Hospital to the 101-year-old Parkside School. 

These are 3-year-olds, Lanning Square activist Sheila Roberts told the board last night. It is cold. There is no shelter, school staff, security or crossing guards.  

It is the same story I heard in October when Matt Katz and I wrote this story and witnessed for myself how at 7 a.m. the puny children with oversized backpacks waited with just a few parents for the bus to take them more than a mile to Parkside. 

When I called acting Superintendent Reuben Mills to ask about the situation, while reporting the October story, he said he was not aware there was a safety issue but appreciated my bringing it to his attention. He said he would call the city and coordinate efforts.

Roberts said Tuesday night that nothing had changed. Mills was not at the board meeting to answer questions. 

Many of the children walk by themselves to the bus stop early in the morning, passing vacant, boarded up homes and drug dealers. When they get dropped off after school, Roberts said, it’s a rush of about 170 children“darting in between buses and cars. 

Board members looked on blankly as Roberts explained that she is only a volunteer who looks after the children at the bus stop because she lives nearby and worries  about their safety. 

“I’ve been doing this for four months. I am not paid,” she said. “I am not doing this through June.”

Gov. Christie has suggested that through the recently enacted Urban Hope Act, private entities will be able to take over the Lanning Square School and build a new privately owned but mostly publicly funded school.

Roberts and fellow Lanning Square activist Mongaliso Davis complained to the school board Tuesday about the lack of information on that project, as well as the safety issue.

On Saturday, the Friends of Lanning Square School will host a town meeting at 11 a.m. at St. Augustine Church, 525 Royden St. A flier advertising the event reads: “The Governor and special interests want to turn over the land to a private company to build and operate the school. We don’t want a privatized school our children might not be able to attend, run by outsiders.”

Superintendent Bessie LaFra Young's return to the Camden School District after a long absence received zero comments from the public last night.  It was approved by a 4-2 vote.