Clarification, Aug. 23 12p.m.: The statement made last night by APS was not a new policy statement, as originally reported, but an update to families. Its intent was to clarify current policies and help people follow new procedures, wrote Frank Bellavia in an email. Bellavia is a spokesperson for the schools. --Steve Thurston, editor.
In the face of greater pressure from parents, Arlington Public Schools released a statement yesterday evening, reinforcing the transportation plan for the school year that starts just after Labor Day. The statement addresses some of the problems parents are facing and offers methods to fix them.
However, APS does not plan to change the new busing plan itself before classes start, said APS Superintendent Patrick Murphy in a short interview last night.
Murphy acknowledged that there had been some issues with bus routes and that the school system is amenable to change, but they are dealing with that through the appeals process on a case-by-case basis.
The statement says, “Families can appeal decisions based on safety concerns, bus stop locations, or travel to or from school for students living in areas designated as a school walk zone. To the best of their ability, Transportation Services staff is working to respond to all families before the start of school.”
Parents have been complaining since Aug. 16 when the school system unveiled a new plan for busing children to and from school. Under that plan, elementary school students walk to school if they live within a one-mile radius of the school. Sixth-graders and above will walk to school if they live within a 1.5 mile radius. Students will need passes in order to board buses.
The school system cannot say exactly how many students were affected by this change. In a recent interview, school spokesperson Frank Bellavia said the greatest impact involved five or six schools. However, the school system does not have an accurate count of exactly how many students walked or rode buses last year. Bellavia also said they are not sure exactly how many students will ride the buses this year. They estimate about 9,000 will walk and 14,000 will ride.
The new plan has meant that many students who rode the bus last year no longer can this year. Parents have complained that the plan looks at distance from the school only and not at which roads the children must cross, especially during the morning rush hour.