ELGIN, Ill. (CBS) — Elgin District U-46 will be making some children walk a mile or more to catch a school bus this fall, because of severe budget cuts — and parents are making it clear that they are not happy.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports, on Thursday night, more than 100 parents turned out for a raucous two-hour community meeting at Bartlett High School about the bus service changes and related topics.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports
Four U-46 administrators, led by Chief Operations Officer Jeff King, were peppered by questions and indignant comments.
“I do have daughters and we do have registered sex offenders down our street,” said one woman as others in the audience applauded. “They want to walk with the boys from our neighborhood who are now on other buses. It’s ridiculous.”
The woman said her daughter and three neighbor girls are assigned to four different buses. Now, the woman said, the girls cannot walk together.
Transportation officer Andy Martin disagreed.
“If we stage correctly, and things work the way they’re designed, all for of the buses will be there,” he said. “Now, on the return trip, there may be a stagger and there may not.”
Still others said siblings are being assigned to different buses. One man demanded a map of every bus stop on U-46 routes because he is certain that one must be closer than the stop for his son, more than a mile and a half away.
King said that after-school buses for those participating in extracurricular activities have been eliminated in the belt-tightening, forced by Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto of school funding.
Martin said the belt-tightening does not affect buses provided for athletic teams and school bands for away games.
Director of Safety and Security John Heiderscheit described the plan as “drastic cuts made because of a last-minute veto.”
“That money comes out of the general fund for education and it’s going to come out of the classroom,” he said.
While he asked for input, he could not guarantee answers that would please parents. He said that U-46 cannot afford to hire police officers to direct traffic in and around schools. He said the cost in Elgin is $70 an hour per officer.
Parents worry that there will be gridlock outside of schools as children are picked up and dropped off, and also outside of high schools because of an increased number of students driving.
Other parents worried about children pushing other children onto snowy, but busy, streets, but chief of staff Tony Sanders said U-46 had no money in its budget to clear snow away from waiting areas.
He said district officials would check with the communities in which the schools are located to see if they can make snow removal from waiting areas a priority.
U-46 plans another community meeting about its high school transportation plan at 7 p.m. Monday in the auditorium of Elgin High School, 1200 Maroon Dr.