Local: Education

Prohibited from buses, Arlington families walk to school

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Local,Virginia,Education,Transportation,Taylor Holland

Aiden Delacourt wasn't going to let the 0.9-mile trek from his house to Glebe Elementary School ruin his first day of first grade.

Alongside his mother, Sapna, who was pushing his two younger siblings in a stroller, Aiden walked along busy roadways and around fire hydrants and telephone poles in his path without complaining.

When he reached Glebe, Aiden, one of nearly 9,000 Arlington Public Schools students who didn't receive a voucher to ride the bus this year, said he was excited and "not even a little" tired after his walk.

But his mother isn't worried about how Aiden will feel on his first day, a day when "everyone's excited." It's the weeks and months ahead -- when the excitement has worn off and the weather worsens -- that worries her.

Late last month, Arlington awarded vouchers to students living more than a mile from their elementary school or a mile and a half from their secondary school to allow them on the school bus. Children inside that radius, even those who previously had been allowed to ride the bus, instantly lost access to them.

The transition to vouchers was rocky at best, as more than 250 parents appealed their child's "walker" status. But Delacourt said she was surprised Aiden's first walk to school went so smoothly.

In other parts of the county, many parents braved morning traffic to drive their children to school.

Alexis Conley, a parent of two at Taylor Elementary School, said the road closest to the school was backed up beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Still, Superintendent Pat Murphy spoke highly of the new transportation rules.

"The support and cooperation that parents, staff and the community provided was extremely well-received and appreciated," Murphy said.

Elsewhere, students in Alexandria City and Fairfax County public schools also started class Tuesday, the last in the Washington region to return.

"It's been remarkably trouble-free for the first day of school," Fairfax schools spokesman John Torre said.

Officials said the same in Alexandria.

"ACPS students and teachers experienced a smooth opening day," said Alexandria schools spokeswoman Kelly Alexander. "Students arrived on time and ready to learn, [and] teachers were excited to meet their new students."

A record number of students enrolled in public schools across the state this year, including 22,676 in Arlington, nearly 13,000 in Alexandria and 181,510 in Fairfax.

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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