Halt in bus service angers Kendall Ridge parents

September 07, 1994|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Sun Staff Writer

More than a dozen cars and mini-vans snaked around the rear parking lot of Waterloo Elementary School Friday, spilling onto Old Montgomery Road as parents waited to pick up their children at the end of the school day.

Second in line was Elizabeth Bhanot, who came nearly a half-hour before classes ended to pick up her 8-year-old twins, who have been denied bus service this year by the county.

Mrs. Bhanot's family was among the dozens affected by Superintendent Michael E. Hickey's decision to halt transportation for a portion of the Kendall Ridge neighborhood that includes families whose children now can get to the school on a new, wooded walking path.

The secluded path crosses a small creek and abuts the county's Bureau of Utilities, leading to the rear of the school.

"I wish they gave us the bus back," Mrs. Bhanot said as she sat in the car. "No way am I letting my children walk the path. I can't walk myself through there. There's too many strangers walking around. It's too hidden."

The decision to curtail bus service to the Kendall Ridge neighborhood caused traffic tie-ups last week as dozens of parents drove children to school. Parents waited as long as 10 minutes to make left turns onto school property during morning rush-hour traffic while annoyed motorists honked as they passed by.

By midweek, school administrators, who say the walking path is safe for children, had tried to relieve some of the traffic problems by not allowing parents to get out of their cars and walk their children to the door.

Ellicott City-based Poteet Bus Service volunteered to drive the more than 50 students affected to and from school for about $600 a year, but school transportation officials rejected the proposal, citing potential problems with liability insurance.

School officials offered instead to solicit bids from other private bus contractors to run the short route. Parents are afraid the cost -- about $400 to $450 per student for the year, said Chrissy Mayhew of Kendall Ridge -- would be too high.

Glenn Johnson, transportation director for the schools, noted that other schools, including Northfield and Jeffers Hill, have used private bus service for years.

"This type of transportation they're looking for has been done many times in the past for many schools," he said.

Parents plan to meet this week to discuss filing an appeal with the Board of Education about the denial of bus service, or to consider other actions. They also said they will seek support from other elementary schools to change the policy requiring elementary school children who live within a mile of a school to walk.

Some Kendall Ridge parents continue to worry about their children using the path, although police have reported no incidents there and say the path is safe.

"I'm not about to let my daughter walk that path," said Marty Justice, sitting in a mint-green minivan Friday while waiting for her daughter and a neighbor's son to come out of school. "She's a 7-year-old child. I don't know who's out there."

Ms. Justice said the bus that would have driven her daughter to school "goes past our house, goes up the street and turns around, and goes past the children."

"It's two-thirds empty," she said. "There's all sorts of seats on the bus."

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