Student asks town, county officials for help

WANTAGE. School board allows bus stop controversy to continue as new families move in.

| 02 Apr 2024 | 12:53

Failing to get relief from her local school board, Lea Gunther, a 12-year-old student at Sussex Middle School, has turned to municipal and county officials for help.

She spoke to the Wantage Township Committee on March 13, asking its members to support her request to the Sussex-Wantage Regional Board of Education to move the location of the bus stop for her and her two younger siblings closer to their home. The school bus now stops about 1.5 miles from her home on a busy winding road.

On March 27, she also addressed the Sussex County Board of County Commissioners, asking for its support.

Starting last summer, Lea has gathered hundreds of signatures on a petition to the school board.

“I felt they (the committee members) were actually listening to me versus when I go to the school board meetings and they just wish for me to sit down,” Lea said after the Wantage meeting.

“The town did what it could do in terms of widening the bus stop area with no shoulder, even adding an additional 18 inches on the side of the road for us to park our cars on the other side of the road.

“I originally spoke in front of the town council to thank them for doing the most they could do versus the minimal that the school board has done, but I realized that the school board has all control over this, and I pray that they will change their hearts.”

She pointed out that more students are now using the bus stop because families recently moved nearby.

“They seem to speak up very little,” she said. “Very recently, these families were told to go further (to another bus stop). I think it is because they do not speak any or very little English and they do not know or are scared to speak up and/or maybe they have no one to stand up and speak for them. The school board did this all while knowing these neighbors cannot speak up for themselves.

“So I, as a 12-year-resident, will admit I am worried about being punished by the school board for speaking up in front of the town board, but I know it is the right thing to do.”

Rebecca Gunther, Lea’s mother, said she has seen an email from the school district addressing the new families, who originally were assigned to the same Mount Salem Road bus stop as her children. The new email reassigned only the new families to a bus stop further away.

“The selected bus stop for our new neighbors is now Courtright Road, which is much further actually, about 1.9 miles,” she said.