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Van cuts travel time for teachers: Shuttle runs between school and North Ferry

A chilly, soggy morning greeted teachers who opted to leave their vehicles in Greenport on St. Patrick’s Day and board a North Ferry boat to Shelter Island, where they were greeted by a van to shuttle them to school.

Weather notwithstanding, they laughed, sang and chatted with their colleagues rather than sitting in their own vehicles in a line of traffic waiting to board.

School Nurse Mary Kanarvogel was aboard with teachers aide Matt Dunning, who is one of those who drives the van for the school. To celebrate the holiday, Ms. Kanarvogel was decked out in green and offered cupcakes, juice and bottled water to her passengers.

It all came together thanks to a deal worked out by Supervisor Gerry Siller and Senior Services staffer Sara Mundy, according to Laurie Fanelli, who is director of senior services.

Currently, the north ramp on the Greenport side is closed for a building project to increase its height and length, which has caused longer than usual waiting time to board. But even when that work is complete, school officials know that as the warm weather season gets underway, ferry lines typically increase.

The van is used to transport seniors to activities and programs and to provide them with rides for food shopping at the IGA. Ms. Fanelli said the process has gone smoothly and the only requirement from her office was to ensure the van would be back in time for food deliveries to seniors.

Superintendent Brian Doelger, Ed.D., also credited North Ferry General Manager Bridg Hunt with working to make the transition smooth.

“North Ferry was glad collaborate to with Dr. Doelger and the Town to help get the teachers to class on time,” said Heights Property Owners Corporation General Manager Stella Lagudis. The Corporation owns North Ferry.

On school days, the van makes trips between 7 and 8 a.m. and in the afternoon, between 3 and 4 p.m.

Most teachers drive from their houses to Greenport, finding ample parking in lots around the Greenport hub. But there are also some who ride the Long Island Rail Road into Greenport to walk aboard the ferry.

“This has been wonderful,” Guidance Counselor Martha Tuthill said. She lives in Orient and prior to the shuttle, had to endure often lengthy ferry lines. She particularly appreciates the opportunity to interact with colleagues before the school day begins.

English teacher Vincent Stingo lives in Ronkonkoma, so has a lengthy commute to Greenport capped by sitting in line waiting his turn to drive aboard a North Ferry boat. In cold weather, to keep warm in his car, he knew he was expending gasoline.

There’s always a line, both in the morning and afternoon, said 3rd grade teacher Claire Geehreng. Her commute from Mattituck to Greenport isn’t that long, but waiting through long ferry lines could mean more than doubling her commute.

“It’s the best part of my day,” she said about boarding the van with her fellow teachers.

Reading teacher Maggie Manorel from Riverhead only started using the van on March 16, but applauded the opportunity it affords her to get to better know her colleagues.

Fifth grade teacher Michele Yirce, who commutes from Miller Place, said she hasn’t used the van often, but expects to be doing so about three days a week.

Mr. Doelger said there’s not the same need at South Ferry where the trip between Shelter Island and North Haven is much shorter, resulting in less wait time.