I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Monday, August 11, 2008

School Walking Distance Issue Continues to Anger Escambia County Parents

Today Escambia County School Board members received the template letter that will be sent out from Tallahassee to Escambia County parents who contact State Government officials with their concern(s) about student walking distances. This letter was sent to the board by Assistant Superintendent for Operations Shawn Dennis, and can be viewed here:

I have been receiving numerous telephone calls and emails on this issue, and I have stated the following to those I have spoken with:

1. I am concerned about student safety, just as they are.

2. The changes to our local board rules were made to align our transportation policy with state guidelines. The state does not and has not funded districts to pick up most students who live within 2 miles of their home schools. (see rules below)

3. At a special budget meeting held on Wednesday, August 6, The board voted 5-0 to send this policy back to the superintendent for review and possible revision. In light of the number of parental complaints combined with the recent good budget news (beach property tax lawsuit settlement), the board felt that there should be room for some compromise on this issue. We are awaiting the superintendent's updated policy proposal, and hope that it will contain provisions for middle school students in hazardous walking conditions, and also a hardhip provision for working families, one car families, and/or single parent households.

I then told those I spoke with that, if the 2 mile walk for students is the issue that is burning them up, they should make their voices heard. I suggested they contact their State Representatives and State Senators to tell these state lawmakers to:

1. Adequately fund the local school districts to pick up students who live within the two mile radius of their schools

2. Change the law to apply the unsafe walking conditions exemption to not only elementary school children, but also to middle school students. Explain the concerns -- pedestrian/automobile collisions, inclement weather, and sexual predators.

3. Quit forcing mandates down the throats of local school boards, without adequately funding them.

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