A Change.org petition is making its way around social media this week after parents learned that bus service would not be offered this year for Raymore-Peculiar students living within one mile of their school.
Monica Strown, of Blue Springs, said she started the online petition on behalf of her sister, Erin Reiter, who lives within the Raymore-Peculiar school district with five children. Strown started the petition on Monday.
As of Thursday, it had more than 800 supporters. Those who have signed the petition come from Raymore, Peculiar, Belton, Grandview, Lee’s Summit, Kansas City and other areas in the region as well as other states, such as Colorado and Illinois.
Strown said some parents were recently notified of the change via Apple Bus, a company that provides bus transportation to the district.
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In an email responding to a reporter’s questions Tuesday, Michele Stidham, director of communications at Raymore-Peculiar, addressed the change. Stidham said she had not seen the petition, but heard of its existence.
“There are some streets/households that received bus service in the past, but will not have bus service this year because there are now adequate sidewalks along the route to school,” Stidham said. “Bus transportation changes this year bring consistency across the District in implementing the 1-mile threshold.”
In the petition, Strown asks the district’s board of education to reconsider providing bus transportation to all of its elementary-aged students within the district. The petition comes a little more than week before the first day of school at Raymore-Peculiar, a district of about 6,000 students.
“This news was upsetting for parents who have little to no means of securing transportation for their young children,” Strown said.
“There are many parents within the Ray-Pec district whose work schedules and incomes do not allow them flexibility in ensuring their children’s transportation to and from school. Parents will be forced to have their children walk; regardless of age/maturity, weather, or unsafe areas including less populated neighborhoods where there are numerous registered sex offenders.
“This could all result in increased tardies or absences and therefore less learning and lower grades. We, as a growing community, are asking you to please reconsider your reasonings for eliminating public transportation.”
The district said bus transportation will be provided for students who live more than 1 mile from their school; however, it also said bus transportation would be provided for students who live less than a mile from their school if there is an identified hazard area.
“This may include crossing a major thoroughfare or a route that does not include sidewalks,” Stidham wrote.
With major grade reconfiguration changes this year, the district said it had notified families by mail in the spring of students’ school assignments for 2017-2018. The district said the letter also indicated whether bus service would be provided.
Stidham said the one-mile designation is “fairly common” among area school districts, such as Belton School District 124 and Center School District in Kansas City. Some schools choose other distances, such as Shawnee Mission School District, which provides free bus transportation to students living 2 1/2 miles or more from their school but offers a pay-to-ride program for those students who live less than 2 1/2 miles from school.
The district also noted that state law requires that transportation be provided for students living more than 3 1/2 miles from school but the law also says transportation may be provided for all students.
State law also notes that the local board of education could provide transportation to students living less than a mile from school at the expense of the district. The law says state aid for transportation is paid to any school district providing transportation to students, but “only on the basis of the cost of pupil transportation for those pupils living one mile or more from school.”
No state aid is paid for the costs of transporting students living less than one mile from the school, according to the law.
As of Thursday afternoon, Strown’s online petition had 818 supporters. The petition, according to Change.org, is expected to be delivered to the superintendent of the Raymore-Peculiar school district.