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School Board delays decision on reinstating transportation appeal process for parents

Loudoun parents with safety concerns about their child’s bus stop will have to continue to work with the Loudoun County Public Schools Transportation Department, as the school system has yet to decide on reinstating a formal appeal process.

The Loudoun County School Board voted 6-3 Tuesday to send a motion to reinstate parents' rights to appeal transportation decisions back to the Student Support Services Committee.

The motion to reinstate a formal appeal process was originally made by Eric DeKenipp (Catoctin) following weeks of concerns following bus route and bus stop changes. The School Board previously voted unanimously to remove parent’s rights to appeal in its March 28 meeting.

The appeal process would require acknowledgement from the school system within 15 days and an answer from Superintendent Eric Williams within 30 days. DeKenipp proposed this to address some parents not having heard back from LCPS staff about their transportation concerns.

“At this point, I understand we’re still working on streamlining the delivery of transportation services, but the changing of this policy in that meeting last spring was a poor decision, which resulted in leaving parents with no ability to file an appeal,” DeKenipp said. “It’s resulted in parents and children — not just in my district, but countywide — being in dangerous situations where they’re left with few options.”

DeKenipp said students have had to walk dangerous paths to get to new bus stops, and some parents have opted to drive their kids to the bus stop, sometimes parking illegally in the process, or driving them to and from school which worsens traffic.

Purcellville resident Lori Hawk said her daughter’s bus stop is along a gravel road with no lighting that the board had previously declared as unsafe, yet the stop was changed to this location following a transportation study.

School Board member Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) said that while staff has addressed many transportation concerns, not all problems have been fixed, and she received emails Tuesday about elementary school students having to cross a highway to get to their new bus stop.

Debbie Rose (Algonkian) made the substitute motion to send the issue back to committee. Rose said she believed a policy change was a premature step and a policy change is not necessary to change walk routes or bus stops.

Rose added that there have been close to about 42,000 students that have been going to and from school safely since the beginning of school, and LCPS staff have addressed 922 of the near 1,500 complaints.

“That’s probably an outdated number because it keeps getting amended every day,” Rose said. “There is an enormous amount of staff time going to working on these issues daily. And I'm not saying that the rollout has been perfect, by no means, and I don’t think they would say that either, but I do want to defend the staff and certainly all School Board members here, that the priority has always been the safety of students.”

Rose also said staff has had 741 new bus stops this year. Usually, LCPS staff adds about 150 new bus stops to address transportation complaints. Rose pointed to this to demonstrate the ability for bus stop change without a policy change.

Eric Hornberger (Ashburn), Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) and Joy Maloney (Broad Run) also supported moving the issue back to committee, saying there is an avenue for parents to share their concerns with the school system.

Hornberger also said an appeal process would require an ad hoc committee, and staff would have to go through the appeals, analyze them and find documentation supporting the committee’s decision. This could also open up an avenue for appeals in other areas, he said.

Turgeon supported having more time to discuss an appeal process, but ultimately voted against sending the motion back to committee, along with DeKenipp and Marshall.

Turgeon cited the immediate safety concerns for why she voted against the substitute motion.

“I don’t think that my colleagues are understanding the urgency of this,” Turgeon said. “You haven’t been to these rural areas. I know it was their choice to live there, but gosh darn it, they pay the same taxes as everybody else and if it can be safe for the people in Sterling and Ashburn, it can be safe elsewhere.”

The Support Services Committee will discuss the possibility of reinstating appeal rights and also examining the transportation changes over the span of the next couple months.


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Comments


That’s very accurate Erickson.


Can someone find me a school board member who spends money like it is their own money instead of the way Debbie Rose does. Changing the bus system and not having a complaint procedure is something you expect from undiscovered indigenous tribes. Instead of the nationiol debt clock the school board has a dead kid clock, yikes!


The whole school board and especially Debbie Rose need to go. It is a cancer headed by Williams that do nothing except expand their empire. Taking away bus stops for children in Broad Run Farms yet increasing enrollment in full day kindergarten is bowling for children with automobiles. 5 3/8’s miles of road with no sidewalks and you want kids to navigate that with cars? If anything they should of increased the number of pick up points in BRF’s. I have no love for the bus system but would appreciate our children not being used as pawns in the school boards great money grab scheme. 2 choices, increase pick up points or build a million dollars worth of sideway down Broad Run Dr. No sane person can be happy with the lunacy they paid $98,000 for that puts our minor residents in harms way. A rose by another name is fertilizer.


How’s the push for full day babysitting, er Kindergarten, working out for everyone?  Bet those resources could be used somewhere else, like, um, bussing.


Just more corruption from our local school board. Don’t hold those accountable, just continue to feed LCPS a blank check. The person in charge of this debacle should drive every bus route during the summer to evaluate what’s best not sit at Taj Mahal and do nothing except punch numbers into some software to make the decision. If this was done at private company, many would be fired. It’s a disgrace that the school board doesn’t do their job and those chiefs get over paid for not doing their job.


Don’t mean to jump on the SGP Bandwagon but c’mon…let’s keep the complaints off the books, handle things with a nod and a wink and a phone call, no formal complaint process, and…no accountability. 

No accountability for throwing money at a bunch of “experts” from elsewhere instead of fixing it ourselves, no accountability for the impact on student safety, no accountability period.  “Don’t worry about it, we’ll handle it, so please stop complaining and making us look bad.” 

And, of course, without a formal process in place, and the record keeping that goes with it, when, inevitably, some kid does get hit in the dark at a bus stop, deniability for LCPS.


Resident you are 100% correct.  That is where most of this issue begins. Prime example of the Board jumping over a quarter to get to a penny.


LCPS took health benefits away from bus drivers a few years back.  Many drivers were single moms who were driving the buses primarily for the insurance, not the low wages.  That is the root of the shortage of drivers and therefore bus routes.


This has turned into an utter debacle. The school board has no solution (and probably desire) to fix. They continue to dodge the issue or push the complaints off on to other parts of the school system. I don’t believe this is a regional issue (east/west).  We live in South Riding and continue to have issues with over crowded buses and late, relay late buses both in the morning and afternoon.  We have emailed our board member as suggested and got one response back essentially saying it should all be resolved. Now that it isn’t resolved, we sent another message, no response.  We, as have other started to call the district offices, zero response from them.  They screwed the pooch on this and are looking for additional places to hide.  I’m tired of hearing they are working on it.  Rose stating they have addressed 922 of 1500, I’m no teacher but I think that would be a failing grade in my book. And can she please quantify what ‘address’ means?  I wish they would step up and resolve the problem or tell us all what we all know; they ran us into an iceberg and it is everyone for themselves.


Parents are concerned because the school board has not only eliminated smaller schools that are geographically dispersed but then doubled down and eliminated bus routes. This resulted in elementary kids being assigned to long walks on roads without sidewalks, very long bus rides, and overcrowded buses.

The school board members in Sterling and Ashburn don’t have to worry that their kids will face such issues so they don’t want to hear the complaints. They just want to squeeze the transportation budget to free up money for their LCPS teacher spouses (more money for their own household). As Debbie Rose put it, she doesn’t want to hear parents whine about not receiving “door to door service”. Remember Debbie is the same board member who called citizen comments “disgusting” during the Leesburg rezoning debate. As long as she and her neighborhoods are insulated, tough luck to everyone else. She doesn’t have time to even listen to real complaints.

Jeff Morse praises the trans dept but then says the complaints are so high, he doesn’t want to sit through them. 2019 elections coming soon though

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