Arlington eases school bus rules, but only for some

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Photo - Some parents in Arlington are upset by the school district's efforts to prevent children who live within walking distance to school from riding the bus.
Some parents in Arlington are upset by the school district's efforts to prevent children who live within walking distance to school from riding the bus.
Local,Virginia,Transportation,Taylor Holland

Arlington County parents are so upset with the school system's attempt to prevent students from riding buses to school that 10 of them pulled their children out of Campbell Elementary School and moved them to another school to which they can ride a bus.

School officials responded to the parents' revolt by immediately suspending the new bus rules, but only at Campbell Elementary. That's left thousands of other parents questioning why their children are still being forced to walk to school while those at Campbell can now ride buses.

Pam Girardo, the mother of two Taylor Elementary School students, filed three separate appeals with school officials seeking permission for her children to continue riding a bus. But because they don't attend Campbell, they still must walk.

"I'm happy for anyone who gets bus service back," Girardo said. "But we're still frustrated. We're not giving up, and we remain determined to bring to light the blatant disregard for public safety shown during this process."

Arlington school officials instituted the new bus restrictions this year to cut costs and make it easier to track students.

Students living within a mile or so of their school must walk or be driven there by their parents. So many students who were supposed to walk were taking buses instead that the county started a bus voucher system. Students eligible to ride the bus got a voucher to show the driver every morning. Children within walking distance didn't get vouchers.

Parents whose children must still walk called the voucher system unfair and dangerous since hundreds of additional students now must walk along roadways to get to school. Since the new rules were imposed in late July, many of those parents filed appeals, signed petitions and started regularly attending school board meetings in hopes of getting the bus service reinstated.

"I'm happy for Campbell, but it's still a major inconvenience for us," said Sapna Delacourt, who drives her first-grader to Glebe Elementary every morning. "It's time for them to turn their attention to us. It's just not safe to ask our children to walk to school every day."

Moley Evans, the Parent Teacher Association president at Campbell, said everyone was feeling "a great sense of relief" after the county suspended the new bus rules there. But Campbell parents still want to see the rules suspended elsewhere in the county, she said.

"We've got each other's backs," Evans said. "We're going to keep fighting to change this."

Parents who pulled their children out of Campbell were moving them to Carlin Springs Elementary School. Overcrowding at Carlin was one reason the county suspended the bus rules for Campbell.

County officials said further changes are possible, such as creating a temporary "courtesy service" that would allow students who rode the bus last year to ride again even if they don't have a voucher.

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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Taylor Holland

Staff writer
The Washington Examiner