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MURRAY PARENTS FILE FORMAL GRIEVANCE WITH DISTRICT OVER SCHOOL BUSING PLAN

Parents unhappy with a Murray School District board decision to bus their children away from their neighborhood school have filed a formal grievance with the district.

The parents, all of whom live in the Walden Ridge subdivision on Murray's west side, want the board to rescind its decision to bus their children two miles to Liberty Elementary instead of letting them continue at Viewmont Elementary, their neighborhood school.The parents know that the grievance procedure is something teachers, not parents, use to challenge board decisions, said Walden Ridge resident Ray Diehl.

But they have exhausted the normal avenues of communication - sitting on committees, speaking at board meetings - and hope the grievance will move the board to reconsider earlier actions.

The board is not likely to do so.

At a board meeting on April 24, a compromise proposal offered by board member Bruce Cutler died when no one seconded his motion to consider it. Since then, the board has refused to argue the issue with the dissatisfied Walden Ridge parents.

The grievance was not placed on the agenda for the board's regular meeting Wednesday night, and board members did not respond to the parents when they spoke during the regular time set aside for public comment.

The district had put Viewmont on a year-round schedule three years ago to relieve classroom overcrowding. But after hearing from people who said Viewmont's schedule was causing family conflicts, the board in January decided Viewmont would return to a traditional nine-month schedule this fall.

Classroom crowding remained a problem, however, and the board in March decided to realign attendance boundaries and bus more than 100 children, mostly from the Walden Ridge subdivision, to Liberty.

Since then, unhappy Walden Ridge parents have been fighting with the board.

At first, some of the parents complained their children would be going to a school with lower standardized test scores. They have backpedaled from that position, and now say they have no objections to Liberty per se.

"Where (the children are) going is not the issue. It's what they've done to get us out of the school (they're) in," said Diehl, one of the district board's critics.

Not everyone in Walden Ridge is contesting the board's decision, Diehl said. But residents of about 40 homes in the subdivision signed a petition supporting the grievance, which says a committee assigned to study the year-round schedule lacked adequate representation from their subdivision.

The grievance also states that the committee's recommendations were not based on thorough research and facts, that the Murray board failed to communicate properly with district residents and acted in an "arbitrary and capricious manner" in its decisions.

The decision to bus the Walden Ridge children may not end with their elementary school years. The board has acknowledged that the district's traditional attendance patterns may mean the children will be bused through their junior high school years. The board has not yet taken formal action on any junior high school busing recommendations.