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Bus Cut Spurs Parent Concern
NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) -- Students at Buford Garner Elementary School lined with parent volunteers on Friday afternoon to head home on with their twice-weekly walking bus.
It's a chaperoned program that runs only nine weeks every semester, but after the Iowa City Community School District's $3.6 million in cuts, those kids will be walking up to two miles to school every day, no matter what the weather looks like.
That's causing some major concern for parents.
"We have anywhere from 20 to 40 kids (walking) that route on a given day, and we get to (Highway) 965 and your'e still trying to tell them to get out of the street," said parent and walking bus volunteer Camille Hayes.
The proposed route for the students to get to Garner Elementary would involved crossing Highway 965 at Cherry Street via an underground tunnel. District officials said the use of that tunnel makes the trip safe. Parents believe their kids are still being put in danger, and won't always use the tunnel.
"It's like a bunch of little kids playing 'Frogger', I'm pretty sure is what's in our future," said parent Tara McMorris.
When Garner was built, parents said the district told them the route was unsafe, and provided them with a bus for that reason. The parents want to know if the budget cuts are the only reason the route is now being deemed safe.
"I couldn't send my kids down that route just to go play with a friend without raising all these eyebrows and having people upset with me for being an irresponsible parent, but because I'm supposed to send them to school on that route, suddenly it's okay," McMorris said.
The parents are also frustrated that they only found out about the cut once it was final. Parents got a letter last week from the district stating that they are not entitled to a bus because they live within two miles of the school, according to Iowa Code.
And while they understand the need for the district to make cuts and implement the diversity policy, the parents are concerned that this cut is taking away a basic safety precaution. Many parents in the area agree, there just aren't enough of them available during the day to volunteer for a carpool or a walking chaperone to make sure their children get to school safely.
"I know if all of us who have to get our kids to and from school have to quit our jobs, that sure messes up their diversity policy now. There's going to be a lot more kids on the Free and Reduced Lunch (status list)," Hayes said.
The cut to the bus route saved the district $80,000 out of the $3.6 million it needed to cut, said Chief Operating Officer David Dude. Other cut programs will likely be reinstated first once the district is back to its normal operating budget, Dude said.
The decision to make this specific cut was done by an administrator who is no longer with the district, Dude said.