Photo: Steve Thurston
About two dozen mothers from an apartment building near Columbia Pike whose kids now walk to Campbell Elementary School, attended the Arlington Public Schools board meeting last night in an attempt to get one bus stop back.
People who organized the event--and even got a commercial bus to help get the mothers to the board meeting--said they are trying to return the stop at S. 8th and S. Frederick streets, so that 88 kids can get their bus stop back. Seventy-two of the children are 6 years old or younger, the Campbell PTA wrote in a statement to the school board.
At the start of the school year when APS began to enforce rules that said elementary school children who lived within a mile of their school have to walk, these kids were left without their stop.
During public comment at the APS board meeting, mothers and others who spoke to the school board focused on a few major concerns:
- winter is coming and with it both cold temperatures and dark mornings; it’s not a safe route, especially for the smallest children
- the kids are little and the walk is too long; they arrive at school tired, hungry and sometimes wet
- some single mothers have lost jobs because they cannot help their children to school and then get themselves to work on time.
Blanca DeLeon worked as a housekeeper out of an office in McLean. She recently lost her job, she said. She has two children, 8 and 10 years old, and she said she does not trust them to walk to the school alone. She walked them, she said, “I go late to my job, so now I don’t have a job.”
Erla Esmeralda babysits children in her own home. She delivers her son to school and brings some of her charges with her. The parents do not really like it, she said. Some parents have already chosen another babysitter, and the rest are threatening to, she said in an interview before the board meeting. The parents do not want their children outside in the dark and cold of the early morning, she said.
The group of parents not only wants the bus stop back, but wants to see the policy changed. Organizers want elementary school children to walk only if they live within a half-mile of the school; middle schoolers walk inside three-quarters of a mile; and high schoolers walk if they live within a mile of the school. Current rules say that elementary school children walk if they live within a mile, and middle and high schoolers walk if they live within one-and-a-half miles of their schools.