We've all heard the stories from our parents and grandparents – “When I was your age, I walked to school in snow up to my waist uphill, both ways!” We laugh. We roll our eyes. We know life was a little different back then.
Southwest Allen County Schools thinks it's time to live the good old days. Starting the next school year, Homestead High School and Summit Middle School students living within a 1.5-mile radius will no longer have school bus service provided to them. Their website states that several elementary children also no longer have bus service if they live within a 1-mile radius.
Why? These cost cutting measures will save the district approximately $100,000 per year. Sounds fairly innocent at first glance, right? A district that is mindful about saving money.
But what many don't know is that Homestead High School has a brand-new football field – artificial turf. And the marching band got new turf for its practice. Cost? $2 million. Oh, and then there's the new concession stand that they couldn't live without. There are lots of improvements going on – possibly rightfully so – but at extreme costs to the district. Millions are being spent, but the district can no longer afford to allow students living close to the school to ride a bus.
As a taxpayer, will my taxes be reduced since my children fall within this no transportation zone? Of course not! I'll still be paying what I pay and receive fewer services. But there is another issue that is far more important beyond tax fairness. Child safety.
My children will have to walk to school. Our addition does not have sidewalks. They will have to walk through a large park where the biking trails are not shoveled in the winter. So my children will have to walk in the snow over a mile to school. A throw-back to yesteryear!
In the Aboite area, 13 sex offenders live within five miles of Summit Middle School. Four of them live within two miles. Do you think they'll be aware of children walking alone to school? Through a park. In the dark in the winter months. Is it conceivable that one of these predators would offer a ride to a couple of young girls during a thunderstorm while they are heading home after school? In today's world, we all know this is more than a possibility. It happens all the time. And if this does happen, will the school board simply blame the state for lack of taxes, blame the superintendent, or blame the parents for not personally driving their children to and from school? Why are children living in that 1.5-mile radius not as protected as those living farther out?
Then there's the fact that many families have both parents working. We also have many single parent households. Moms and dads cannot merely leave work to run their kids home and then head back to work. As taxpayers, the no-transportation decision left many families no other options but to force their children to walk to school.
I understand that certain monies from the state cannot be mingled with capital expenditures. But why is the SACS district making cuts at the risk of our children? There were no other areas to cut? And why make the extravagant expenditures of new artificial turf for a football field, concession stand, etc.? The appearance of this in light of the transportation cuts unveils the blindness of this current school board.
Parents have reached out to the school board. One friend was told by the board chairman that this decision was the superintendent's fault. School boards approve of actions such as this. Go online and view the board minutes. I have written to the transportation director and have yet to hear anything back.
If the SACS board cannot be trusted to make sound decisions on behalf of our children, then they should be replaced at the next election. Blaming others while going on a spending spree is not leadership nor does it demonstrate that the school board has the best interests in mind for the families in our area. I'm sure the decision will not be rescinded, but opinions must be heard and the school board must answer how they decided to put children at risk while they enjoy watching Spartans play on new turf this coming fall.