Lancer Letter 05-24-11

Stop the Bus!
by Richard Scaletta

Until my days in my high school band, the idea of riding on a school bus was foreign. I walked 10 blocks to my elementary school (admittedly it was uphill only one way). My high school was even closer. A three block trek while carrying my sousaphone on many occasions, though making me an odd site, was an ordinary task. The walk to and from elementary school, though, are the times I remember fondly. Like Ralphy on “A Christmas Story,” the closer you got to the school, the more friends had joined your procession. This was a time to deeply explore the lives of 10 year olds. On the way home, the possibilities were endless: stop by a friend’s house, play at the fresh water spring, or sneak down to “tadpole pond” by the railroad tracks. (Yes, my mother always knew where I was, unless of course I was at the forbidden railroad tracks.)

Some school districts south of I-80 (that would be the Pennsylvania Harrisburg knows), do not provide any bussing. Secondary students can be required to walk up to two miles and elementary students up to 1.5 miles and in districts with walkable streets, the students walk. Here in the 117 square miles of General McLane, bussing is needed.

As parents are now aware, we are looking to eliminate door to door transportation service next year and go to neighborhood bus stops where neighborhoods exist. Though we will not be certain of the savings until next year, we are estimating savings of $14,000 to $28,000. While primary motivation for this change was dealing with the budget deficit, as we looked at it, other benefits are possible.

Our students are far too sedentary. While a short walk to a bus stop is not going to result in major health improvements, every little bit helps. Social skills and friendships, so important to children’s development, get another opportunity to develop.
We have posted on our website the proposed stops and have expressed interest in receiving parent input. This is not a feigned interest in input. We firmly believe that working together, we can improve our transportation while still maintaining safety for our students.

Our Constitution states that government exists to “promote the general welfare.” Many people are all for the general welfare or the common good as long as it doesn’t affect them negatively. Getting to the common good requires compromise which means some give and some take. I think this task of moving to neighborhood bus stops provides an opportunity for us as a community to shine – to work together for the common good as neighbors and school.

I have really appreciated how some neighborhoods have worked on this in a brief amount of time. Contacting the neighbors, a leader has come to me with excellent information that we would have no way of knowing that has allowed us to come up with a better option. For example, it is wonderful to know that there is a mom, willing to serve as the host location for a stop who will look after the kids as the wait and get off the bus.

One thing I know about this community from living here over thirty years: when there’s a job to do, we come together and do our best. I look forward to working with many of you through this bus stop consolidation process.

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The Lancer Letter is a weekly editorial by Richard Scaletta, Superintendent of Schools, General McLane School District. Opinions expressed are Mr. Scaletta’s views on the issues and subjects of discussion.

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