News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

August 15, 2012

Parents question transportation policy

TERRE HAUTE — Nicholas Weir and Cameron Andrade admit to being both nervous and excited about their first day of classes at Woodrow Wilson Middle School.

Last year, Weir attended Chauncey Rose Middle School, and he is now a Wilson seventh-grader; Andrade attended Franklin and is a Wilson sixth-grader.

“I’m a little nervous, but it will be fun,” Weir said Monday, the day before school started. He said he looked forward to “just everything, like the sports,” especially basketball.

According to their parents, Tuesday was a success and both students enjoyed their first day of school.

There was one thing the parents are seriously concerned about — and that is the long walk from their home to Woodrow Wilson. The families live near 20th Street and First Avenue.

According to School Board policy, if middle school students live within 1.5 miles of the school they are required to attend, bus transportation is not provided, said Franklin Fennell, school district director of transportation.

There are exceptions “if the walking distance is unreasonably hazardous relative to the age of the students concerned,” according to board policy. While the policy doesn’t define “hazardous,” those hazards might include railroad tracks or major roads or intersections, Fennell said.

Weir’s mother, Crystal Barrett, is concerned about the long walk, particularly in winter months. Weir and Andrade walked to school Monday and it took them 30 minutes, she said. They walked down First Avenue to 25th Street and then south to Wilson.

“What are we going to do when it’s bad weather and the kids are sick?” Barrett asked. “What happens when there is snow outside or it’s raining?”

She’s also concerned about safety issues.

She said she talked to the transportation office and was told that because the families lived within 1.5 miles of the school, their sons had to walk. “I told them when my kid gets sick in the winter and he’s not at school, don’t hold him accountable,” Barrett said.

Currently, she has no way to drive her son to school. On some days, Barrett said her dad will be able to drive the kids, but he also has other grandchildren to transport.

Weir said his major concern is “my little friend [Andrade]. I don’t want him getting hurt while we’re walking to school.”

They have to cross some busy streets, including Wabash and Ohio, Weir said.

Jennifer Donna, Andrade’s mother, also is worried about her son making the walk, especially in the winter. “I don’t have a car and I’m unemployed,” she said. “Most likely he will have to walk.”

She said if she had to, “I will walk him to and from school every day.”

Otherwise, Donna’s son told her he had a good day at school and liked Wilson — but he’s not looking forward to the long walk each day while carrying a heavy backpack.

Fennell said he was not familiar with the specific situations, and right now, at the start of the school year, many bus transportation issues are being resolved.

Given board policy, he said he may not be able to solve every family’s concerns, but “we’ll be more than willing to look at it and review the situation to see what could be done.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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