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Too close for the bus, too far to walk

Dean Drive was pretty snowy on Tuesday afternoon.
Kurt Hildebrand

Walking a mile both ways to school in the snow might be a charming tale from an old-timer on a frosty evening around the fire, but the reality is far less picturesque.

Jaime Park lives a mile from Meneley Elementary School, too close for the Douglas County School District to provide bus service, but too long a walk for her 7-year-old son.

Park said the school is 0.9 miles from Meneley by one route and 1.1 miles the other way from Park’s Dean Drive home.

When she left the school district for another job, she said her ability to take her son to school and pick him up was restricted.

“We would not be able to get a bus stop for my son, because we were less than a mile away from the school,” she said. “I was also informed that if I wanted to get a stop for him I would have to ask the school board to change the policy.”

Douglas has long required that students living within a mile of a school find their own transportation. First adopted in 1980, the policy was last revised in 2011.

On Monday, Superintendent Keith Lewis said the district has one of the shortest transportation distances compared with surrounding districts.

“We do not have an official appeal avenue,” he said. “As a district, we have to draw the line as some distance. We do not evaluate the situation to warrant a deviation from our policy.”

The issue is complicated by the fact that school buses may only run at half capacity due to the coronavirus outbreak. The district has capacity to transport around 1,300 elementary school students at half capacity.

In June, Curtis Park asked the school board to change the policy during public comment.

The Parks sought a bus stop just for elementary school students, saying that children under 8 shouldn’t be left at home alone, so why should they walk to school alone?

School Board President Robbe Lehman responded that it is unlikely the district would accommodate the Parks.

“Our request was for adding one stop per route which we believe would add 1-2 minutes onto the bus drivers route for a route they are already on,” Park said.