Thursday June 21, 2012
When students return to school in the fall, their teachers, classrooms, and back-to-school clothes aren’t the only things that will change; the South Burlington School District is in the process of developing a change in the transportation system. This would include a walking bus and the possible addition of four new compressed natural gas buses in replacement of four current diesel buses.
Assistant Superintendent Winton Goodrich shared a report with fellow School Board members in April about the future of transportation. The District recently expanded its transportation parameter from 0.6 tenths of a mile to 0.9 tenths of a mile; students from sixteen different streets who have been riding the bus are affected and will no longer board buses, but will partake in the “walking” school bus.
A walking school bus requires an adult to pick up students in a safe and timely manner and deliver them to school. As of now, school staff would be in charge of student pickup.
There are two main incentives for implementing a walking school bus. First, the system would help cut down on the $1.6 million a year the district spends on transporting 1,500 students to school on 25 operating buses, Goodrich said. Removing two buses from routes using this healthy alternative would save the district $50,000 a year.
This system also promotes physical activity for students. While the district has decided to invest in transportation, it is also a part of the Federal Safe Routes to School Program which encourages communities to make walking and bicycling a safe and peaceful routine.
Recently, informational meetings were held at each of the three SB elementary schools for parents and guardians to actively participate and exchange ideas and concerns about the plan. One concerned parent noted that she was uncomfortable not being able to see her daughter walk most of the distance from the house. The parent proposed that the district hire more crossing guards or use volunteers to pick up the children at several check points along the way.
Another mother asked about inclement weather. Would these streets be a priority in the plowing route? One parent noted that there are some streets without sidewalks. Too early arrival times—before school breakfast begins each day—was another issue to address. Goodrich recorded these concerns and informed parents and guardians that they would receive those answers shortly, and that the District would have more specifics closer to the school year regarding who will be responsible for picking up the children.
The District is still considering another new transportation option: use of four compressed natural gas buses. Each bus is worth $125,000–$130,000, but has a much better footprint value than a regular bus, making it better for the long term.
According to Business Manager John Stewart, the District was offered a federal grant to help fund up to half of the purchase price of the busses. At press time, the District expected to find out within a week exactly how much funding will be provided, and that answer will aid the District’s decision to proceed with the future-forward option.
Visit South Burlington School District’s web site for updates about the walking school bus and the compressed natural gas bus grant at http://sbsdistrict.schoolfusion.us/.
SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent