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BUSING LIMIT STIRS CONCERN OVER SAFETY

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Marian Salmon is worried about her children walking on a two-lane road with no sidewalks to get to East Layton Elementary School this year. But Davis County School District officials say they don't have enough money to keep giving bus rides to youngsters who don't meet state standards.

"They're doing this at the expense of our children," said Salmon, who with other parents is videotaping students going to and from school in hopes of persuading district officials to change their minds once they see how narrow and congested roads are near her home."Obviously, they don't understand our grave concerns about our children's safety," she said.

Large areas of the district are abuzz with protest now that the school board has dropped 3,800 students from its bus routes because they don't live far enough from school to qualify for state transportation reimbursement. If the district keeps on busing ineligible youngsters, it will cost $600,000 - taken from funds earmarked for textbooks.

Davis district traditionally has bused more ineligible students than any other district in the state.

But Salmon insists this is a safety issue that transcends financial considerations, and she is unhappy with the school board's decision.

Salmon is especially concerned about two roads near her home, Cherry Lane and Oakridge Drive, which she said are unsafe for pedestrians and bicyclists and were built decades ago when there was much less traffic. She also believes they were upgraded from hazardous to non-hazardous status so busing could be stopped.

However, Transportation Director Lamont Nelson said there is little the district can do without hurting academic programs.

"I realize it's inconvenient for parents because they're not accustomed to dealing with this, but we have 41,000 other students who get to school every day and face the same hazards these students do," Nelson said.

Nelson said these particular routes never had the legal status of "hazardous roads." He said these two roads, along with many others, will be evaluated in the coming year with help from parent groups to see which qualify for this designation, which could make them eligible for bus service.

However, he said even that won't fulfill all expectations.

"We'll never have enough money to fund all the routes people expect us to. I anticipate we'll have 80 to 90 requests for hazardous routes but only enough money to fund (transportation for) 20 to 25 of them," Nelson said.

Nelson said parents should explore other alternatives such as carpooling, talking to UTA about getting regular bus service and working with the city of Layton to arrange for sidewalk installation.