NORTH OGDEN -- Some parents with students at Majestic Elementary were unnerved when they received a letter from Weber School District last week informing them their children were no longer eligible for bus service.
The change comes because some subdivisions and roadwork have been completed in the area around the school and students no longer have to take a longer route to get there and don't live at least 1.5 miles from the nearest entry point to the school.
The problem? The routes the children have to walk are not safe, in the parents' view -- no sidewalk or curb and gutter and some of the streets' speeds are set at 40 mph.
Parent Dalena Kelley has put together a petition to get the district to change its mind or come up with some solution so her children are safe walking to school. Kelley's children live only 0.8 miles from the school, but were picked up by the bus because there was extra room the last couple of years while work on the nearby subdivision was being done.
She knows they don't live far enough to be bused, according to the state law, but worries about the safety of the route. Her children walk along 2550 North to get to Majestic, which is located at 425 W. 2550 North where there is no sidewalk, curb and gutter and the speed limit is up to 40 mph in some spots.
There is also a nearby charter school with a significant amount of traffic before and after school that also contributes to unsafe walking conditions, she said.
Nate Taggart, spokesman for the Weber School District, said state law says that unless elementary students live 1.5 miles or more from school, they don't qualify for state funds for busing. The state pays the district 61 cents for every dollar spent on busing. If the district were to lose the state funding by busing students who live closer, it would be impossible for the district to pay, Taggart said.
The district always re-evaluates bus routes every year for every school, he added. "We don't have a lot of flexibility with the state," Taggart said. He and principal Dave Wallace understand that it is a problem and don't blame parents for being upset. "I feel for them and I sympathize," Wallace said.
There are two pockets of neighborhoods most affected by the busing change - some students have to walk along 2000 North, which is very close to the 1.5-mile boundary with limited sidewalk, and those who have to walk along 2550 North.
Wallace said the issue is interesting and difficult because while Majestic is in Harrisville, the routes that are affected are in Pleasant View and North Ogden. Wallace and district officials have met with city officials from all cities and are trying to work out a solution - both long and short term.
North Ogden City Manager Ron Chandler concurred and said the city wants to help the children.
Kelley is frustrated because she would like more support form the district and school about finding a safe way to get the kids to school before the busing is discontinued at the end of the month.
"The principal's solution is to carpool. But there are 40-plus kids. That is hard to carpool," she said. It is also difficult to set up a carpool with many working parents, which puts an added strain on stay-at-home moms, she said.
Parent Liz Putnam agreed.
"I've walked it myself," she said of the area her kids must walk to school. "It isn't easy. There are high weeds and it's hard to see sometimes," she said.
She has signed Kelley's petition and has gotten other moms on board.
"There are a lot of single moms and working parents ... that worry about keeping their children safe," she said. Putnam would like to see the cities develop some sort of trail for the short-term until sidewalk can be put in permanently.
Kelley would like to see the school look into working with some agencies that offer plans for safe school routes. "There are requirements out there for schools to make sure the route to school is safe," Kelley said.
"A lot of families would like to have their children bused in the Weber School District," Taggart said.
He doesn't see that the district will change its mind about the busing issue, but does think officials will continue to work with the city to get a good, safe route put in place both now and for the long term.