As often happens with changes to Arlington Public Schools, parents are up in arms. The new transportation plan that parents believe will have more kids walking to school this year compared to last has sent some PTA email listservs flying. The plan was unveiled at the school board meeting last Thursday.
A facebook page has started; creators plan to use the page to petition for a moratorium on the new plan. Organized yesterday, “Arlington Parents for Safe School Transportation” has 53 likes at this writing.
Jennifer Davis Mulchandani created the page with about 30 people behind her, she said. The group is not “miffed...We are steaming angry,” she said.
She said that she lives outside the school’s long-standing line on a map that defines a walker versus a rider. Historically, children outside the line are riders, but this year her two Taylor Elementary School children became walkers.
The new rules require elementary schoolers who live inside a one-mile radius of the school and middle schoolers inside 1.5 miles must walk to school. Kids who may ride the bus will be issued bus passes. Those who are supposed to walk will not have passes. The changes in the system stem from a report that said the bus system is stressed to the point of breaking.
Mulchandani pointed to the lateness of the announcement as one factor for the anger.
The letters that told parents whether their children were bus riders or walkers arrived in the past week. Parents may appeal the decision, and the schools say they will tweak the routes if needed. A phone number to begin the appeal can be found here.
Parents have already set-up child care that relied on bussing. Now they are making phone calls and sending emails to help in the fight. Mulchandani said many people are still on vacation and have been dealing with this from the beach, or they just do not know that it is happening.
“Our goal is that Tuesday September 4, the buses show up that showed up last year,” she said.
Mulchandani said her group feels the schools made a “bait and switch,” that they had spoken all year about making space on buses by making the routes more efficient, but now the discussion is about making more kids walk to save space on the buses.
“This year, although we have an increased enrollment of approximately 700 students, no additional buses have been added to the fleet,” says an email forwarded to the Mercury from the school’s transportation department. “We do have about 5 new buses this year that are purchased as part of our annual replacements for older buses.”