Students at four Central Valley elementary schools that rode the bus last year now have to walk after the school district cut several bus routes from McDonald, Progress, South Pines and University Elementary schools.
South Pines now has no bus routes except some special education buses because the school’s entire attendance area falls within a one-mile radius of the school.
Traditionally, schools do not offer bus rides to children living within a mile radius of any school because those routes are not reimbursed by the state. Exceptions have been made if students would have to cross railroad tracks, major arterials or the freeway to get to school.
Now no more exceptions are being made at those schools, even though the changes mean that students will have to walk across well-traveled arterials like University, Pines, 16th and Mission.
Progress Elementary is taking a unique approach to losing a bus route that served the area north of Broadway, east of Evergreen and west of Sullivan. A walking school bus has been organized, with a school staffer meeting children on the north side of Mission at Progress each day at 8:25 a.m. to escort them across Mission and south to the school at Broadway and Progress.
“We continue to try to work with the city of Spokane Valley to put a crosswalk in,” said district spokeswoman Melanie Rose.
On the first day of school supervisory assistant VickySeward waited on Mission to see if any students would show up. Several families have expressed interest in the idea, but many parents choose do drive their children on the first day of school.
Parent Remy James drove her children to meet up with Seward Tuesday morning. “My house is four blocks down,” she said. “It’s just a really long way to walk in the morning.”
James said she was glad to see the walking bus stop organized. “I like the option simply because there’s somebody here.”
She said she would not let her two children walk to school if they were not accompanied by an adult. “This street’s way too busy for that,” she said as cars drove by.
James’ two children would be Seward’s only “riders” of the morning. “I don’t know that all the parents know this is here,” said Seward.
Most of the schools affected by the bus route closures have established “preferred walking routes” rather than trying to organize a walking bus route, Rose said. “It’s just how Progress chose to address the situation with this crossing,” she said.
Progress Principal Matt Chisholm said parents have been taking the changes in stride. “We’ve had a couple calls from parents who hadn’t heard,” he said. “Otherwise we haven’t heard anything. No complaints.”
The district only prepared preferred walking routes for the attendance areas that used to be served by buses, said Rose. Over the summer district officials walked and drove the streets to find the safest way to get walkers to roads with sidewalks. Traffic volume and street width were also considered. “It’s a challenge,” said Rose. “There’s not that many sidewalks.”
Parents at any of the four schools who live at least half a mile from the school can petition to have their child walk outside the mile radius and be picked up by a bus. The “walk out” request form is available online at www.cvsd.org.
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