With signs that read “Kids Deserve a Safe Ride” and “Kids Safety is not Negotiable,” Naperville and Aurora parents made pleas to Indian Prairie School District 204 board members Monday evening to not take away student busing from their neighborhoods beginning next school year.
Many of the parents from Stonebridge and other neighborhoods said their children would be left to walk along busy Eola Road, the site of recent fatal accidents and an increased amount of traffic, if school bus service is taken away in the fall. The parents said they were notified on March 21 that busing would end in their areas for the start of the next school year.
The Illinois Department of Transportation requires school districts to provide bus service for students who live more than 1.5 miles from a school, or if the route to school has a serious safety hazard.
Akshata Mavanthoor lives in a subdivision with 10 students, and while six will continue to receive bus service, four are outside the 1.5-mile boundary and will not receive busing any longer next school year. Mavanthoor said the students currently use the same bus stop, meaning it takes the driver no extra time to pick them all up.
Students struggle to walk on the rough terrain along Eola Road in Aurora where there are no sidewalks, and large trucks and vans are speeding by during the morning and afternoon hours when kids are walking to school, she said.
Board members did not respond to any of the comments made by the about 10 parents who spoke during the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting.
Ron Johnson, director of support operations for School District 204, said in a statement the district has been evaluating every area and new assessments have found some areas that were receiving busing do not reach the level of having serious safety hazards.
Johnson said the walking route to Metea Valley High School in Aurora does not qualify as a hazard as defined by the Illinois Department of Transportation Serious Safety Hazard Study criteria for bus service less than 1.5 miles from a school.
Pratyaksh Patel has two children attending Gwendolyn Brooks Elementary in Aurora and said his eyes were opened to the hazards of Eola Road when he and other parents walked along the route last week during a protest about the planned cut in bus service.
“(I am) thinking of kids wearing their snow boots and my little daughter with her backpack which is really heavy,” Patel said. “Kids going into high school are carrying music instruments, participating in extracurricular activities. They have to walk on a sidewalk that is never salted or cleared.”
He said that busing is a basic need for students, and not a privilege.