Letter: Shorter walking distances needed for school children

To the Editor:

On October 12, the Board of Education will reconsider current "walking distances" for students. At that time, the administration will provide a report on how shortening these walking distances will affect our transportation budget. As our community considers this issue, we have provided the following statistics to help better understand just what some of our children face each day on their way to and from school.

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. Here are conditions middle-schoolers faced on a 30-minute walk to school in the 2014-2015 school year.

32 mornings the sun rose after 7:10 a.m.

49 mornings the temperature was at or below freezing.

78 mornings the wind chill was at or below freezing.

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. Here are additional conditions our high schoolers, some as young as 13 years old, faced last year:

129 mornings the sun rose after 6:30 a.m., 71% of the scheduled school days.

52 mornings the civil twilight was after 6:30 a.m.

At dismissal time both groups of students had to walk home when wind chills were below freezing 46 afternoons, 26 of the days the temperature was also below freezing.

As we strive to challenge our students academically, we can’t ignore the fact that, for some children, just getting to and from school is a challenge.

Our hope is that walking distances for all our children will be 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.

Susan Krushinsky
Kara Flannery