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Walk-zone blues: parents protest transportation changes

Loudoun County parents are mobilizing after being notified that nearly 4,000 students will no longer be receiving school bus services.

At the end of the school year, Loudoun County Public Schools notified 3,741 parents that after a reevaluation of their neighborhoods, their children would no longer be receiving bus services.

“This is scary,” Patrice Carrillo, the mother of a rising kindergartner told the School Board during the public hearing portion of the Board's June 25 meeting.

School Board members requested school staff reevaluate walk-zones during the re-zoning process. Board members were dismayed to see some walk-zones hadn't been adjusted in years and some were not following policy 6-21.

Under policy 6-21, transportation is provided for secondary students more than one mile from school or for primary students more than eight-tenths of a mile. However, exceptions can be made if there are “unusual hazards.”

“We wanted to implement a policy that is already on the books,” said School Board member Debbie Rose (Algonkian), who also sits on the Boards Health, Safety, Wellness and Transportation Committee. “There shouldn't be a body that picks and chooses what policies to enforce.”

Rose also noted that having more students walk will increase general wellness and provide health benefits.

Though Rose said that cost savings have not been confirmed by cutting bus services, any saved money would be welcomed.

“That would be a bonus,” Rose said.

Still, many parents are hoping the board will reconsider its decision.

“I feel like they made this decision before investigating all of the rippling effects,” Terri Azie said.

Azie, a mother with students at Smarts Mill and Tuscarora, created a Facebook group shortly after being notified of the change.

At the time of publication, the group, called Bus Cancellations for THS & SMMS, LCPS 2013-2014, had 50 followers, as parents sought tips on appeals, lobbying politicians and School Board members and as an efficient way to disseminate information.

Azie' has an assortment of concerns with the new walk-zones, including having kids walking along the heavily congested King Street and Battlefield Parkway, having kids walk on Dry Hollow Road, which Azie said has no sidewalks, and the ramifications of having more cars on the road has parents drive their kids to schools.

“No one's talking to each other about what they're going to do to mitigate the negative effects of not having a school bus to transport kids,” Azie said. “This is all about money; it's all about cutting the budget and they're putting our kids safety at risk.”

Some of the new walk-zones have been revised after appeals from parents and the appeal process is ongoing. Staff has been walking some of the appealed routes and School Board member Bill Fox (Leesburg) posted on Facebook that he would also like to walk some of the debated paths.

Rose cautioned that some of the new walk-zones may not even be implemented if additional crossing guards aren't hired.

The Health, Safety, Wellness and Transportation committee will discuss crossing guards and walk zones at its Aug. 5 meeting.


My goodness….

Get over it, folks. Teach your kids how to cross the street safely and be glad that they’ll be getting some exercise and saving some tax money.

I’m glad to see the trend moving in the right direction here. When I was in elementary school (over in Fairfax County) I WANTED to walk or bike to school, and was prohibited from doing so because I would have had to cross a street with a 35 mph speed limit.

Paying for buses to take kids a quarter-mile to a school is just plain stupid. Let ‘em walk. And if parents really don’t like it, they can drive ‘em.

Money talks and we know what walks. Get behind a initiative paying 2 dollars a day per student to save your bus routes.

Honestly, I didn’t know kid actually rode the bus anymore. I’ve been stuck in traffic due to all the parents driving their kids across the street to school.

I guess the uproar is that now they HAVE to drive their kids and not have the option of putting them on a bus, like they didn’t do anyway? (notice, I didn’t mention the option of walking!)

Hard to believe so many of us survived walking to our elementary schools when we were in kindergarten.  It’s not like these walk zones don’t have sidewalks or trails…those using Dry Hollow Road use it as a short-cut to get to the crossing..
How about parents spending some time with their kids and walk them to school?  Trade off with another parent/family if you think they need to be supervised both ways ... one parent/family walks with them to school and the other parent/family walks them home.  Nobody HAS to drive their kid to school—-it’s all about choices.

A tip for you people that are not used to walking anywhere:
1 - Look both ways before crossing the street.
2 - Always cross at a controlled intersection.
3 - Only cross with the light
4 - wear reflective clothing
5 - Always bring an umbrella
6 - Start getting in walking shape now.
7 - Get a pair of good confortable walking shoes.
8 - Travel in at least pairs (or apples if you don’t have any).

What did you expect from our illogical school board. I’m sure not 1 school board member went out and reviewed their area schools(especially elementary school kids that would have to walk). That would make too much sense and be responsible. They could always claim they didn’t hire enough crossing guards…

I live in an area going from bus to walking, people in my neighborhood are freaking out. I thought it was crazy they were being bussed to a school that is almost across the street from us.

People are just afraid to let their kids cross the street? I walked a mile to my elementary school as a kid in Springfield on a much more busy road, people need to chill out.

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