UPDATE: Good news. On Monday, no vote on this issue took place. That doesn’t mean that the school board can’t change the busing distance, just that a decision has yet to be made. As of yet, the issue is not on any upcoming agendas.
On Monday, the Bridgeport Board of Education may vote on changing the maximum walking distance for elementary school students from 1 mile to a 1.5 miles — a controversial plan that has got nothing but flack from parents since it was conceived last spring.
In response to the potential vote, early Friday morning, parents and students organized by the local non-profit group, Faith Acts for Education, walked 1.5 miles from the homes of three students on Wayne Street to Park City Magnet, in protest of the possible change in policy which they say endangers children.
“It was a very long walk for these kids,” said Keyla Medina Rentas, a parent organizer with Faith Acts who said the 33-minute walk left an impact on her. “There was an accident right before we started to walk…this is what our children will be exposed to every day.”
In addition to the accident, Rentas said there were other dangers, such as speeding cars and no sidewalks for much of the walk.
This isn’t the first time the organization and its members have raised this issue.
In November, Faith Acts hosted a forum with board members. During the forum, all five board members in attendance: Dennis Bradley, Howard Gardner, Annette Segarra Negron, Joe Larcheveque and Ben Walker, agreed to vote against extending the busing distance.
Even before that, parents didn’t seem keen on the idea
Originally proposed by school board member Maria Pereira last school year, the idea was to cut transportation and use the $1.3 million in savings to fund kindergarten paraprofessional positions.
In the spring, the BOE organized a series of public forums. None were well attended. The majority of parents who did attend, however, were not favorable to the plan. Despite this, Pereira continued to push the idea, arguing that because the vast majority of parents did not “see this as a big enough issue to come out to a forum,” that meant that parents were ok with the change in busing.
The change in policy was halted for a time due to the school board boycott and Interim Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz resigning earlier this year. At the last meeting, school board members voted to, once again, push forward the policy change.
The question now is: How many times do Bridgeport parents have to say ‘no’ before the school board hears them? I guess we’ll see tonight!
Correction: In an earlier version of this story, it said that a second reading of the busing policy was on Monday’s agenda. It was not.