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Arlington parents learn results of school bus appeals

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Local,Virginia,Education,Transportation,Taylor Holland

Pam Girardo learned her children would be prohibited from riding the school bus this year by way of an automated phone call.

Citing concerns for the safety of her first- and third-grade children at Taylor Elementary School, Girardo had appealed a new set of rules from Arlington Public Schools that said they had to walk nearly a mile to school each day.

And after watching buses do practice runs in front of her home for much of the past week, Girardo was hopeful she would win her case. But she learned she'd had no such luck.

"The fact that they've made all of these decisions without any regard for traffic and public safety is reckless," she said. "We're not giving up."

Beginning when school starts Tuesday, Arlington students who live more than a mile from their elementary school or a mile and a half from their secondary school will receive "vouchers" to allow them on the school bus. Parents of children inside that radius who had been allowed on the buses for years lost access to them. Many appealed.

Not all parents are receiving bad news as the appeals are decided.

Kelly Fado, the mother of two Nottingham Elementary School students, said every appeal filed by someone in her neighborhood -- about 18 families -- was decided in favor of the parents.

Fado and her neighbors sent photos of missing sidewalks and tire tracks along roadways to Arlington schools officials, which she said probably helped each family receive vouchers.

"They really had no choice [but to allow our children to ride the bus]," Fado said.

Schools officials said more than 250 appeals had been filed, but noted that the number of pending cases changes every few hours. Superintendent Pat Murphy said he did not know how many decisions had been reversed.

"We promised we'd expedite the process as much as we could," Murphy said. "We're devoting a lot of time and energy to this."

But as decisions are made, parents like Sapna Delacourt, whose Glebe Elementary School students lost their appeal, must find ways to get their children to and from school each day.

"I guess we're going to try it out," Delacourt said. "But we are considering pulling our children out [of Glebe] and enrolling them at a nearby private school. I don't know what's going to happen."

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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