Seven new crossing guards have been hired by Hays CISD to assist students from five campuses who no longer receive bus services and must walk to school.
Those hires, who were added in November, come as a result of the district adhering to a section of the Texas Education Code on Transportation Allotment, which determines funding for transportation in Texas public schools.
If a student lives within two miles of a campus, but the route is considered hazardous to a student’s safety, the state will provide funded transportation for those students. If a student lives within two miles of a campus, but the route is not considered hazardous, funding is not included in the transportation allotment.
Per state law, a hazardous condition exists where no walkway is provided and children must walk along, or cross, a freeway or expressway, an underpass, an overpass or a bridge, an uncontrolled major traffic artery, an industrial or commercial area, or another comparable condition.
Students affected by the change are those who live within two miles of Lehman and Hays high schools, Wallace and Barton middle schools and Fuentes Elementary. The district has added the new crossing guards as a safety measure for students.
“Since these new areas are not considered hazardous anymore, we don’t have state funding to get these kids to schools,” said Tim Savoy, public information officer for HCISD. “This funding would have to come from within the district’s budget but that money would have to come from another program or out of the classroom.”
Fuentes Elementary, one of the five campuses affected by the new rule, has new sidewalks along Philomena Road, deeming, by the state law, to be safe passage for students to walk to school. Routes typically in newer neighborhoods will have hazardous status in the beginning of their development.
“We need to inform our parents that just because you have hazardous status, doesn’t mean it will stay forever – it is not a guaranteed service,” Savoy said. “It doesn’t mean it isn’t frustrating and upsetting to parents. We get that. With how the state law is written, it doesn’t leave the district that much choice.”
Developers in neighborhoods are responsible for building sidewalks, and typically the developer will hire a contractor for that service, said Leon Barba, Kyle city engineer. If the city sees that no sidewalks are being built, the city will urge the developer to build them.
As the city expands so will its responsibility for growth in infrastructure, Savoy said. Development for these projects takes time. While the district is not responsible for construction of sidewalks, if the city constructs new sidewalks, it can change the hazardous status.
School buses and crossing guards are funded by the school district and not the city. According to the district’s transportation webpage, each year the Hays CISD Board of Trustees determines which routes in Hays CISD qualify as hazardous using the criteria in state law.
“A lot of people will move into a home and they’ll have bus service and that’s what’s expected,” Savoy said. “In reality, if that neighborhood is within two miles of the school that student is temporary from the start until sidewalks or safe walkways are put in to alleviate that hazardous status.”
Barba said funding for sidewalks and walkways can an issue, but he hopes a sidewalk master plan will be in the works in the city’s future. Barba said the Kyle City Council could look to “find a way to connect schools and bring better walkability for students.”
“Once you depart from state funding there are so many areas within two miles where residents would want locally funded transportation for students,” Savoy said. “It would break the bank on the district and it would cut deeply in the education services we would provide. It would defeat the purpose of having educational programs if funding went straight to getting kids to and from school.”