22 Aug 2014
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Parents: School Bus Fee Threatens Safety

Some schools aren't near sidewalks, they say.

Parents: School Bus Fee Threatens Safety

Implementing a bus fee next year would jeopardize student safety, some parents told the Westborough School Committee on Wednesday night.

The fee would be “coercive,” as some families live within walking distance of schools, such as the Mill Pond School, that lack sidewalks, Old Nourse Street resident Jennifer Rudolph told the school board.

“I think the school district is asking for a lawsuit when one of those kids gets hit by a car. And it will happen,” Rudolph said.

The school committee is considering implementing a transportation fee – possibly $200 per student, with a $500 family cap – next fall to offset, in next year’s school budget,  reductions in state and federal funding.

The school department would charge the fee to students in grades seven through 12, and to students in Kindergarten to grade six residing less than two miles from school, the only students whom the district could charge legally.

The board will vote on a budget request next Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., when its 6:30 p.m. budget public hearing will be held at the Forbes Municipal Building.

About 12 community members attended Wednesday night’s meeting. Westborough Patch will have more on the budget and the school transportation issue later today.

Rudolph said she lives within a half mile of Mill Pond, and “I would like nothing more than to make my boys walk to Mill Pond every day next year, rain or snow. I had to do it as a kid.”

“However, there are no sidewalks. So, I feel that having a transportation fee is indeed coercive, even for those who live within half a mile. Because I can either send my boys through the woods on a 25-minute walk,” or have them “walk along Route 30.”

Rudolph asked that sidewalks and crosswalks be created if a school bus fee is implemented.

“I think the school committee cannot act alone. It’s a much bigger issue than just implementing a transportation fee on the parents,” she said.

Former school committee member George Thompson said that “as a practical effect, you’re going to have some kids, particularly in the downtown districts, forego buses, and they’re going to have to cross Main Street in the morning.”

“The more kids, the increased foot traffic you have, you’re going to have an increase in the probability of confusion, mistakes (and the) risk of an incident,” Thompson said.

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