By Andy Sevilla
This year, Hays CISD elementary students in Buda’s Garlic Creek subdivision were discontinued bus transportation to school; now the city’s council has joined parents in urging the school district to reinstate the service.
Buda council members unanimously passed a resolution in November supporting a community request for the reinstatement of student bussing from the Garlic Creek subdivision to Elm Grove Elementary out of an interest for public safety, health and welfare, according to the approved formal statement.
“This resolution is not to try to force the school district to change any of their policies or anything else,” council member George Hahn, who requested the matter be put on the agenda, said at a November meeting. “What we’re just trying to voice to them, as a community, is that their decisions have negatively impacted the citizens here in Buda, and we would like to have them understand that we are supportive of the people in Garlic Creek…that have lost the bus service that they had come to rely on.”
Beginning this school year Hays CISD discontinued bus service to Elm Grove Elementary for students who reside in the Garlic Creek neighborhood. That move came after improvements to the Garlic Creek and Cullen Country neighborhoods, as part of the Safe Routes to School federal grant, provided what district officials call a safe route to school.
Buda was awarded a $500,000 federal grant in 2010 to improve routes to school, according to the National Center for Safe Routes to School’s website. The improvements included a pedestrian bridge and new sidewalks at Garlic Creek and Cullen Country.
And while the school district has not yet received a copy of Buda’s resolution, Hays CISD spokesperson Tim Savoy said when the city implemented the federal grant and built a bridge in the Garlic Creek neighborhood, that subdivision had a safe route to school per the Texas Education Agency’s definition.
Under state law, school districts are reimbursed for school bus transportation for students who live more than two miles from a school campus or who have to travel on what the law defines as a hazardous route, Savoy said.
“Those that live within two miles of their campus and are not on a hazardous route do not receive buses in Hays CISD because the district doesn’t get state funding for the routes,” Savoy said. “There are about a dozen areas in the district that are considered walk zones.”
Those walk zones can be found in both Buda and Kyle. For example, elementary and middle school students who live in Plum Creek or in Hometown Kyle are not afforded bus transportation to Negley Elementary or Wallace Middle School.
In Buda, Cullen Country also was initially included in the school bus discontinuance due to a pedestrian bridge improvement, but because there are homes inside the subdivision that exceed the two-mile threshold, the district kept the bus service in place, Savoy said.
For Buda’s council, however, it’s about standing with their residents.
“This is a non-binding resolution; and this is a mechanism, essentially, for us to convey how a group of our citizens are feeling to the school district,” Buda Mayor Todd Ruge said.
Savoy said parents spoke against the district stopping bus service when the move was announced in April, and they petitioned the school board to continue the school transportation service.
“Maybe I am alone in my concerns or more upset that I should be, but my child will never cross that (pedestrian) bridge alone,” TL Jeffcoat, who has a kindergartner at Elm Grove, wrote in a letter to the editor.
But others questioned who would pay for the service if the state wouldn’t cover the costs.
“I know a lot of parents work, and I understand that,” Buda resident Tommy Poer, who was the lone commenter on the matter before the Buda council said. “I was a working mother. But I’m concerned about funding and why should the city get involved in this when it’s between the parents and the school district.”
Hahn said the council is supporting concerned Buda residents. He said Garlic Creek dwellers have said they can watch someone a block away get bus service for their children, but those that live in the neighborhood are being asked to have their elementary-aged kids walk nearly a mile to school.
Buda’s resolution did not mention any financial assistance to the school board to help cover the cost of running a bus route.