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Parents say route is unsafe for kids

October 13, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - A Hawbaker Avenue mother of four, two grandmothers and a great-grandmother are leading a battle against the Waynesboro Area School Board over what they say is a dangerous route that children take on their walk to and from school every day.

The mother, Jennifer Johns, of 210 Hawbaker Ave., said she has attended school board meetings for five months to push her cause.

She said parents in her neighborhood and along Second Street want their children bused to Summitview Elementary School. She also said children who walk to Fairview Elementary School also have to cross dangerous streets.

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The board is expected to vote on the busing issue Tuesday.

Schools Superintendent Barry Dallara, in a memo to the board dated Tuesday, recommended that the school board deny Johns' request.

State law says the cost of busing children who live within 1.5 miles of the school is not reimbursed by the state, according to the memo.

"Any cost incurred to transport Mrs. Johns' children would not be reimbursed by the state and the district would be required to transport many additional, if not all elementary students attending Summitview and Fairview Elementary Schools," Dallara said in his memo.

That could mean six additional buses at Fairview Avenue and three more at Summitview costing about $175,000, he said.

"I feel the district does far more than many districts do to insure (sic) that students can attend school in a safe and orderly manner," Dallara said in his memo.

Two of Johns' four children, ages 5 and 7, attend Summitview, she said. She drives them to and from school every day, she said, because she feels "It's not safe to walk."

She presented the board with a petition that she said carried the names of 40 residents on Second Street who believe children should be bused to school. She said she gave the board an earlier petition with the names of 80 parents in her Hawbaker Avenue neighborhood.

Many are low-income families, she said.

Johns said children in her neighborhood who attend Summitview leave Hawbaker, cross Northfield Avenue, take Broad Street to Main Street and then cross Main Street, where there is a traffic signal with a pedestrian signal to stop traffic. They then go onto Clayton Avenue down to Second Street and take a left that will eventually lead them to the school.

"Most parents drive their children to school," she said. "I'm also fighting for those who can't afford to take their children to school. I'm going to keep on fighting, not just for Hawbaker Avenue, but for busing in the whole borough."

Dallara produced a map showing a 1.2-mile "safe route" that Johns' and other Hawbaker Avenue area children can use to walk to school.

It shows that children from Hawbaker, Highland and Dickinson avenues can get on Broad Street, follow it to Main Street, cross at the light and continue on Broad to East Second Street, then go left to school.

He said checks of the route during the first two weeks of school have shown that very few, if any, children use it.

That means children are not using the designated safe route, said board member K. Marilyn Smith.

School Board President Larry Glenn said he drove the route and agrees that it has some dangerous intersections.

Lula Kinley said her 5-year-old grandson, Michael, is driven to Summitview every day. "He should be bused. I wouldn't put a 5-year-old on Highland Avenue," she said.

"It's less than a mile, (to school) but it's too dangerous for a 5-year-old to walk," said Darlene Kinley, Michael's great-grandmother.

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