Arlington parents still struggling with bus policy

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Local,Virginia,Transportation,Taylor Holland

Arlington County parents say they're more confused and angry with each change that school officials make to a new school bus policy that is forcing thousands of students who once rode the bus to walk to school instead.

After parents moved 10 students to different schools because of the busing change, the school district proposed altering its new bus policy so that some children who used to ride the bus can do so again - but with restrictions.

Under the so-called "courtesy busing," students now required to walk to school can get on a bus in the morning, but only if there's room for them on the bus and if riding the bus won't make them late. They also have to board a bus at an existing stop.

But parents charge that the school district hasn't made clear who will be allowed to ride and who won't. They say they're not sure what the new proposal entails and who would be eligible.

"We're all confused," said Caitlin Clark, the mother of two Taylor Elementary School students who now must walk. "They're backpedaling and trying to sweep it all under the rug. More and more children are getting back onto buses, but who wants to put their 7-year-old in the middle of this fight?"

Arlington Public Schools Spokesman Frank Bellavia said the students eligible for "courtesy busing" will be selected based on the number of appeals filed by parents in the neighborhoods in which they live.

The move comes just weeks after the county reversed a prior decision and allowed full bus service for Campbell Elementary School after parents starting pulling their children from that school and moving them to another to which they could ride a bus.

Arlington County students who live within a mile or so of their schools are supposed to walk to school. But many of them were riding buses instead, prompting school officials to change the bus policy so that only students with school-issued vouchers were allowed to board school buses. Students who were supposed to walk simply weren't given vouchers.

About 9,000 students instantly lost their access to school buses.

Parents, upset that their children were walking long distances in bad weather and near busy roads, revolted, filing hundreds of appeals and demanding bus service be restored.

"It just seems like they're making the rules up as they go," said Sapna Delacourt, the mother of a first grader at Glebe Elementary School. "No one knows what's going on."

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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