Dear School District 196: I love our school, I have always been impressed (and still am) with our principal and assistant principal. I am not impressed with the Transportation Department for District 196. Isn't it the goal of the transportation department to work together with schools to see that every student has a safe means of transportation to and from school?
This year, for the first time, our school is not providing safe transport for all children at Red Pine. Calvin is in morning kindergarten. He walks to school along with 6 other children from our cul-de-sac as we are less than .5 miles away. The school provides crossing guards at the two intersections he has to cross before and after school to ensure that the all of the walkers safely cross both streets. The problem arises at noon when morning kindergarten gets out. There are still crossing guards, but they are only allowed to cross the kids over the first street, not the second as it is off of school property.
When Max and Sophie were in kindergarten, I called the transportation department and they agreed that it was not safe to ask a 5 year old to cross a three way intersection alone and allowed them to ride the bus home, getting off at the street one down from ours. This year however, the Director of Transportation (Randy Dukek) insists that Calvin (and another little girl in his class who comes to my daycare) cannot ride the bus home unless I PAY $500.00 for them to do so. Even though according to Randy, policy has not changed in the 5 years since Max was in kindergarten, this year the school and transportation department refuse to work together to ensure that all of the kids attending Red Pine have safe means to and from school. These two little 5 year olds are the only children at the school who are asked to cross a street without supervision.
Last week, without telling me, the crossing guards who had been walking the kids across both streets (before they realized school policy dictates that they can't) were told to only cross them over the first one. The bus driver who literally follows them as they walk home, saw these two little 5 years olds trying to determine if it was safe to cross the next street all by themselves, stopped her bus and made sure they got across the road safely. Thank heavens. Exactly how hard would it be for the bus (with less than a dozen kids on it) to also give Calvin and Molly a safe ride since it already passes by our street?
Update: just to confirm the fact that the Director of Transportation at 196 is a little caught up in his position, this week the kid's teacher asked the bus driver why she could not drop the kids off as she already drove right by their street. She said she did not know why it would be such a big deal and called the transportation department while their teacher stood outside the bus. Guess what the director said to the bus driver?
HE CHANGED THE BUS ROUTE!!! That's right, in order to avoid dropping off these two little 5 year old children, the transportation department rerouted the school bus so instead of driving through our neighborhood and passing by our street, it now leaves Red Pine, crosses the railroad tracks, drives down busy Hwy 3, crosses the railroad tracks again and then goes to the first stop. I wonder if the parents of the kids on that bus know that the Director of Transportation for SD196 thinks it is better to expose their children to unnecessary risk and a longer bus ride (as the bus has to come to a complete stop at railroad crossings and open the door to check for trains and now has to pass through two stop lights) than to allow two children to have a safe means of transportation home from school. Can you imagine the lawsuit if anything were to happen at one of those railroad crossings and it comes out that the Director made this decision when it has always been their policy to avoid railway crossing whenever possible?
Dear School District 196 - sometimes it really is best to listen to common sense. All children (and ESPECIALLY those in kindergarten) should have access to a safe route to and from school.
In the meantime, I am walking to school at noon every day with the daycare children to ensure Calvin and Molly can get home safely - which is fine when the weather is nice and when my numbers are low. When I walked over with six children including two babies in a rainstorm complete with flying branches and lightning? Not so good.