District 204 superintendent defends busing policy
In the face of continuing criticism regarding the transportation policy in Indian Prairie Unit District 204, Superintendent Adrian Talley defended bus routes that shifted after school boundaries were redrawn.
Talley made the remarks at Monday's school board meeting, where Veronica Andrade was the latest parent to complain during public comments about the lack of busing for many district students. She specifically complained about safety concerns for students walking to school.
"Please stop looking at our families from how we look to you on a Google map," she said. "We live in these communities. And after years of living in these communities, we are the experts on the safety conditions."
Her comments continued a trend that began at the start of the school year when new district boundaries took effect.
New bus routes also upset many parents who are no longer provided transportation despite expectations their children would be bused to school.
Talley addressed the situation during his regular school board update on Monday. He said the transportation policy was developed after lengthy consideration under the leadership of Ron Johnson, the district's director of support operations.
"It has been implied that decisions about busing are somewhat capricious in nature and not given out equitably," Talley said. "That is not true, nor is it factual."
Since August, student and parental complaints have resonated throughout the state's fourth-largest school district that serves more than 26,000 students in Aurora, Bolingbrook, Naperville and Plainfield.
Families from Georgetown, Gombert and McCarty elementary schools, Fischer and Still middle schools, and Waubonsie Valley High School have spoken at IPSD 204 board meetings about the issues they have with busing policies.
Some parents said they were told busing would be provided, only to be told later it wouldn't.
Some said they received a one-year extension on busing, while others said they weren't given the same opportunity.
While safety for children walking to school was the main concern expressed, some parents suggested an equity disparity exists in the district that hurts students in low-income neighborhoods.
Talley on Monday attempted to dispel the criticisms, stressing the decisions were made based on established state regulations. Students living more than 1.5 miles from their school, he said, must be provided with transportation.
Some students living within 1.5 miles of school also are provided busing if a hazard exists as defined by the Illinois Department of Transportation. Hazards include no sidewalks, the need to walk on a roadway or cross railroad tracks, and the speed or volume of traffic.
Talley said the process of judging hazards is continual, and all cases are evaluated individually. Traffic studies, he said, take between two and four months, causing delays in updating bus routes.
"Eventually all reviews will be completed with all routes assigned according to the requirements established by the state," Talley said. "The process is equitable because the same process is being used in all areas."