Board to review school walking distances

The Board of Education will take another look at which students should ride the bus and which should walk to school when it meets tonight, Oct. 12.

In July, School Board Chairman Susan Glennon asked for consensus from board members as to whether or not they wanted to discuss school walking distances.

Walking distances drew criticism from parents last year when the board decided to more strictly enforce walking distances and take students off the bus who had been riding.

At that time several board members were focused on cutting transportation dollars to make room for what they saw as more direct education spending.

The efforts did cut costs: Chief Operations Officer James Richetelli Jr. said the schools have saved more than $165,000 per year over the last two years on various transportation reductions.

Although half the board members did not want to revisit the walking distance issue when Glennon brought it up in July, after a brief discussion the board asked the administration to provide a report on the number of students who would be affected and the cost associated for making changes under two scenarios.

“Last year, the board agreed we would continue the conversation on walking distances in the fall of 2015,” Glennon said. “The board has asked administration to provide us with some specific data so it can be considered as part of the discussion.”

Scenario one will be based on reducing the high school walking distance from 2 miles to 1.5 miles, reducing middle schools from 1.5 to 1 mile, and leaving elementary schools as they are at 1 mile.

Scenario two will be based on reducing the high school walking distance from 2 to 1.5 miles, leaving the middle schools at 1.5 miles and leaving the elementary schools at 1 mile.

Students who live beyond the designated walking distance ride the bus.

Last year prior to altering city bus runs, the school board hired retired police investigator Daniel Sharoh, who looked at 1,086 bus stops in Milford and submitted a lengthy report suggesting which stops could be eliminated.

The walking distances have been the same for many years, school officials said, but they had not been enforced.

Parents issued a loud cry after many bus riders were told they had to walk to and from school, many referring to harsh weather and dangerous roads. Opposition to the walking distances hasn’t gone away.

In a recent letter to area newspapers, parents Susan Krushinsky and Kara Flannery urged the board to reconsider the current walking distances.

“According to our current policy, middle school students, some as young as 10, living less than 1.5 miles from school are considered ‘walkers.’ A student living 1.4 miles from school will leave home at approximately 7:10 a.m. in order to be seated and ready to learn by the time classes start at 7:50 a.m.

“For our high school students, it is even more challenging. Those living less than two miles from school are not eligible for bus transportation. Classes begin earlier, at 7:20 a.m. A student living 1.9 miles from school must leave home no later than 6:30 a.m.”

The women said they would like to see walking distances for all Milford children reduced to one mile.

“As our community considers this measure against projected transportation costs, it is imperative that we also consider the health, safety, and welfare of our children,” Krushinsky and Flannery said.

The Oct. 12 Board of Education meeting will start at 7 p.m. in the Board of Education meeting room at the Parsons Complex.