By ARDEN BASTIA In response to parent outrage and concerns of student safety, the School Committee voted last Tuesday to lower the walking distances for Warwick students. With the new policy, students in kindergarten through grade 5 must be farther than
In response to parent outrage and concerns of student safety, the School Committee voted last Tuesday to lower the walking distances for Warwick students.
With the new policy, students in kindergarten through grade 5 must be farther than .75 miles to receive busing services. Middle school students must be farther than 1.75 miles, and high school, students must be farther than 2 miles to be eligible for transportation.
Bus schedules were sent to Warwick families on Wednesday via email, and a completed schedule of routes will be published in next week’s edition of the Beacon.
The School Committee meets at 6 p.m. tonight at Warwick Veterans Middle School, and according to the meeting agenda, additional details about busing may be shared.
In an interview on Friday, School Committee member David Testa said that he and other School Committee members received a number of emails and calls from parents who were concerned about the transportation policy.
Testa shared some solutions to make the walk to school safer. The School Committee has considered hiring crossing guards, however Testa said “those positions are hard to fill.”
“We want to work with the police department if we can,” he said. “They can pool resources and maybe we can offer a higher rate of pay to make it worthwhile to staff someone five days a week.”
In an effort to come up with solutions for getting students to school safer, parents took to social media like Facebook to brainstorm ideas.
One parent, Amy Kuiawa, suggested depot-style pickups at each elementary school in the morning.
These depots would be for middle school and high school students. “The thinking in that no one is in the elementary school parking lots when high schoolers go to school,” said Kuiawa in an interview on Thursday. “The plan has gotten a lot of steam, and I’ve heard different opinions on whether it would work or not. The main idea was to least get kids to school safely when it’s dark out,” she said.
Kuiawa posted her suggestion for a depot plan on the Community of Warwick Schools Facebook page on July 23. She said the idea came to her in the middle of the night when she couldn’t sleep.
Kuiawa was one of many parents who opposed the change in transportation for the upcoming school year.
“I always say never underestimate the power of a few upset parents,” said Kuiawa. “When things are unreasonable we need to stop laying down and fight for our kids.”
Even though Kuiawa and other parents are grateful for Testa and his dedication to student safety, Testa said all he did was pass emails along to the transportation department.
“I personally can’t thank Karla and Kim enough,” he said of Kimberly Price-DeGuzman and Karla McGovern of the Warwick Public School’s transportation department. “They’re in the trenches so to speak, and they know the art of the possible. They displayed that to us and my hat is off to them.”
Overall, Testa said he’s “very happy it all worked out. We do have some very tough roads to walk along and cross.”
While the plan has eased some worries, Kuiawa remains “cautiously optimistic.”
“I just continue to wonder why the School Committee backtracks. This was supposedly the only solution: to make kids walk this far. How come all of a sudden we can do it another way?” she said. “I’ve seen it a few times. The committee presents an idea as the only option, but a couple of weeks later another solution pops up.”
Kuiawa called the “back and forth decisions” an “emotional roller coaster” for parents.
“The future of this city depends on how these kids are treated,” said Kuiawa. “Kids that love their community and see that the community cares about them will result in a heck of a lot more Frank Picozzis in fifteen years. We’ve got to take care of our kids now.”