Anticipating the opening of school and the elimination of the Gloversville School District’s traditional door-to-door bus service, Strawberry Hill residents Michael Davies and Christine Botbyl and their two teenagers took a test walk to the new bus stop on Phelps Street.
It was three-quarters of a mile, they calculated, and it took 27 minutes.
The family was notified by letter to have the students at the stop by 6:42 a.m., Botbyl said. They were there on time, she said, but the bus did not arrive until after 7 a.m.
Davies and Botbyl and a number of other parents who spoke with The Daily Gazette on Wednesday remain upset with the district’s decision to eliminate door-to-door service. It was a controversial topic in the last school year, when the board enacted the policy for one day in November and then abandoned it pending further study.
Though school officials argued that eliminating 88 miles of bus travel daily would save about $50,000 a year, the parents point out that the State Education Department reimburses the district for 90 percent of those costs, albeit in the following school year. The final savings, they contend, is not worth the risk to children walking narrow country roads — in the dark during parts of the year.
“Something’s going to happen to save about $5,000,” one parent said Wednesday, noting she has chosen to drive her elementary student to school rather than risk an accident.
Strawberry Hill residents Joseph and Kelli Andrews said they too chose to drive their 6-year-old to Kingsborough School rather than have her walk about half a mile down the hill to Phelps Street.
Joseph Andrews, a candidate for the school board last spring, said he and his wife are still discussing their options. “To me it’s a safety issue,” he said, citing the lack of sidewalks and streetlights. He said board members should be asking whether it is “safer for the bus to come up or for the children to walk down. Is it really worth it to save those few pennies?”
“What’s going to happen if — God forbid — someone is injured.”
Davies said he understands the district’s need to save money on transportation. But, he said, the board should consider a compromise: Continue to use bus stops in the fall and spring seasons, but return to door-to-door service once the snow falls.
He said the curves on Washburn Hill Road, leading up to Strawberry Hill, are often icy because of the steep grade and cars sometimes lose control, which he experienced.
“I’m afraid of some of these kids walking down the hill and running the risk of being hit,” he said.
Board President Peter Semione and Superintendent Robert DeLilli did not return telephone calls Wednesday afternoon, but Board Vice President Betsy Simek said the board is resolute about sticking to the new policy.
The district’s director of transportation and buildings and grounds, William Ferguson, said the new bus routes went smoothly on opening day.
“Everybody was where they were supposed to be,” he said. He anticipated evaluating the operation later in the day.
Ferguson said he understands “there are still some people out there who are upset.”
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Categories: News, Schenectady County