Its formal title is the Gloversville Enlarged School District, and what that means is a lot of kids from the neighboring towns of Bleecker and Johnstown attend the city’s schools. They have to take buses to get there, and the district has always provided door-to-door bus service. But in an austerity move prompted by the defeats of this year’s school budget and a subsequent bus purchase referendum, the school board has decided to cut back on the service — making scores of kids in those rural towns walk, or be driven by their parents, to centrally located bus stops. It’s a reasonable expectation that has nonetheless ruffled the feathers of some parents, who are understandably concerned about safety issues.
The new routes won’t be made public for a few weeks yet, or operable until Nov. 3, but they will be expected to save the district about $50,000 per school year. By not having the buses drive down every side road, including even some unpaved dead-ends, the district will reduce daily bus travel by an estimated 88 miles and save on maintenance costs (no more tow-truck calls to extricate buses stuck in the mud).
The question is, how much at risk will this new policy put those students, who come from about 120 families? The answer is, it remains to be seen.
The district has to plan routes carefully, minimizing the need for kids to cross dangerous roads. Parents have to be sure to do their part — teaching their kids how to walk and cross roads safely, and to dress properly so they stay warm and can be seen by motorists if they’re starting out before dawn, etc. Without sidewalks, these roads aren’t the safest place for kids to be walking, but it can be done without tragic consequences.
Parents can’t have it all ways: If they want more moderate tax bills, they have to accept a compromise on services. Schools in cities (including Gloversville) don’t bus all their students, requiring some to walk from as far away as two miles. In that context, door-to-door service seems like something of an extravagance.