The new walk zones are continuing to be a thorn in the side of both parents and the Loudoun School Board and now the Leesburg Town Council is getting into the mix.
At the Aug. 12 Leesburg Town Council work session, the group issued an appeal of the contentious walk zones after meeting with School Board member Thomas Reed (at-large) and Loudoun Board of Supervisors member Ken Reid (Leesburg). Reid sent a letter to the School Board last week opposing the walk zones.
Set to begin this fall, the new walk zones were put in place after the School Board ordered a re-evaluation of the walk zones. School Board rules state that barring any safety issues, secondary students within one mile of their school and elementary school students within eight-tenths of a mile of their school must walk. In the spring, 3,741 parents were notified they would be losing bus service.
At the Aug. 12 meeting, the town council composed a four-page letter to the School Board asking them to delay implementing the walk zones until the 2014-2015 school year. Reasons cited include student safety and increased traffic from parents driving children to school. The letter also charges that the School Board failed to coordinate and communicate with the town regarding the walk zones and did not give parents enough notice that the walk zones were being re-evaluated.
“The Town should have been consulted by virtue of having 16 schools located within the town and having the responsibility for traffic design and safety on Town streets,” the letter reads. “Town staff was not provided information concerning the plan until after it was developed. It has only been through the appeal process discussion and walking the proposed routes that the town has gained a practical understanding of what may be happening.”
With an extra year preparation, the town council argues it could better prepare and enhance safety for the students.
But School Board members, including Debbie Rose (Algonkian), who hosted a town hall last week on the walk zones, state they're merely enforcing a policy that's been on the books for years.
As of last week, the Department of Transportation had received 156 appeals. Of those appeals, 70 had been granted, 32 denied and the rest were pending. Parents whose appeals were denied may then appeal to the superintendent and if that appeal is also denied, to the School Board.