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School bus route changes irk some parents

Lawton_School for Lawton students starts in one week, but getting to class will be different for quite a few students.  They won't be riding the yellow bus to school, and some parents aren't happy about it.  Lawton Public Schools (LPS) announced that it would be eliminating hundreds of stops on school bus routes in an effort to save money - now, more than 1,500 students will have to find another way to get to school. 

Parents are concerned.  They are worried about their children walking in bad weather, carrying heavy backpacks, and crossing busy roads.  Through rain, sleet, and snow, kids that live less than a mile and a half from their school will have to walk every weekday to get there.  Debra Tamaalevea says it isn't only the weather that concerns her if her granddaughter, Harmony, walks to school - it's her health.  "It's going to be a really long walk from our house, and it's going to be hot now," she said.  "She's going to be having a lot of homework, and she'll need to bring her books home everyday.  I'm sure that's going to be a good amount of weight on her back or in her arms."

Debra's neighbor Brian Thomas' daughters will have to make the same trek - he says there's no excuse for it.  "I don't think they're budgeting their money correctly if they can't bus the kids that live almost two miles away from the school," he said. 

LPS Deputy Superintendent Linda Dzialo says budgeting properly isn't the problem - she says that's exactly what they're doing.  "We have to stay current on our instructional methodology," she said.  "We would love to provide all the needs in the classroom, and all the buses to get our kids there.  We'd love to do all of those things, but sometimes difficult decisions have to be made."

LPS says something had to give.  The state budget allocation for 2008 was flat, so replacing 18 buses at $50,000 per bus was not an option.  Because of the bus route cuts, LPS estimates that it will save $250,000-$300,000.  "It will allow us to put that money in the classroom," said Dzialo.  "Obviously our instructional needs are many - we need textbooks, software, and technology to keep our students on the cutting edge of education.  Again, funds are limited - needs are many. "  There are still many unanswered questions, and in Thomas's case although he only lives ¼ of a mile out of the one-and-a-half mile limit, there will still be no buses running in his neighborhood. 

Dzialo says she is unsure what the future holds for the current bus route situation, but she says they'll revisit the issue through out the year.  However, she offers her advice.  "Maybe one parent walking to school with them every day."  And, don't forget about carpooling.  The bus route change doesn't effect all LPS students.  Bus routes for all elementary student will remain the same.  The new rule applies to middle and high schools.

There are also concerns about pedestrian safety.  Will more crosswalks and traffic signs be created?  Will the Lawton Police Department be required to increase its patrols?  Count on 7News to keep you updated.

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