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Merokeans Discuss Proposed School Transportation Changes

Editor's Note: This article was written by Chris Boyle.

A Merrick woman suffering from a debilitating disease is seeking to create change in New York State school transportation laws.

At Tuesday’s South Merrick Community Civic Association meeting, Tara Notrica spoke of her battle with Mast Cell disease for the past seven years.

The illness causes Notrica to enter into anaphylactic shock whenever exposed to any one of many triggers, ranging from foods and odors to environmental conditions.

“They say the most consistent thing about what I’m dealing with is the inconsistency,” Notrica said. “We just never know what we’re going to react to next. I’m on a load of medication and I’m undergoing chemotherapy treatments every other week.”

Due to the effects of Mast Cell disease, Notrica, a former Special Education teacher, said she found herself early on unable to work or even drive a car, causing problems with getting her two children to school every day.

“We were not eligible for school bus transportation because we lived too close to the school,” she said. “My husband works and I was unable to drive, so we asked the Merrick superintendent to make an exception, and he said they couldn’t because they felt that, if they did it for one, they would have to do it for all.”

Thus, Notrica and her husband were forced to spend thousands of dollars a year on private transportation for their children until a final desperate act on her part convinced the Merrick School Board to change their mind.

“Two years ago, I was gravely, gravely ill, and there was a question if I was going to make it,” Notrica said. “We took photographs of my condition. I was 100 pounds and on a feeding tube, and I emailed those pictures to the Board, and they reconsidered.”

However, this victory only firmed Notrica’s resolve, and she decided to do what she could to help ease the hardships of other families suffering under similar situations.

Bringing her concerns to the attention of various local politicians, State Senator Charles Fuschillo, R-Merrick, co-sponsored a bill which would allow Boards of Education to provide school bus transportation to children living closer than two miles to their school whose parent or guardian has a physically limiting impairment. But while the bill passed both in the Senate and the State Assembly, it was vetoed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Notrica hopes a second (and last) attempt to get the bill passed this June is successful, and spoke of her efforts to the South Merrick Civic membership in order to drum up support for her crusade. Civic President Joe Baker vowed the full support of his organization in helping make the public aware of this important cause.

“June is just four months away,” he said. “We’ve got get the ball rolling on this, and quickly. We’re going to invite Senator Fuschillo and other local politicians to our next meeting, along with the media, and get this issue out and generate the exposure and support it needs to get this bill passed.”

What are your thoughts on this issue? Tell us in the comments section below.

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