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BUS-ROUTE PLAN IS GREETED WITH ANGRY `HONKING'

For Davis County parents worried about the safety of their children walking to school, 13 is the lucky number.

The school district has money to provide buses for only 13 of 66 requested hazardous routes next year. Inevitably, that situation is prompting protests from parents whose route requests didn't make the cut."I disagree with where you're drawing the line," Todd Tyler told the school board Tuesday. "There seems to be a lack of information."

Tyler has children who walk to Kaysville Junior High in a high-traffic area. His route request didn't get funded.

A transportation advisory committee comprising parents and community officials reviewed the 66 busing requests last month and ranked them in order of which were most deserving - that is, most dangerous to children trying to walk to school. School district officials then determined how many would receive funding.

"We just went down the list until we ran out of money," Superintendent Richard Kendall said. "Every route is a hazardous route - we just don't have the money for all of them."

Not even for most of them. The $325,000 allocated for hazardous route busing ran out less than a fifth the way down the list.

"We don't have a magic wand," said board member Kathy Dalton. "We don't have Daddy Warbucks with billions of dollars to give us."

Lamont Nelson, district transportation director, said 24 buses will be required to service the 13 routes. Dissatisfied parents have until May 12 to appeal the exclusion of their route from funding.

As might be expected regarding such a touchy subject, a few sparks flew last week at the school board meeting at which committee members and district officials presented their recommendations. Kendall was a bit peeved that Tyler, a member of thecommittee, should lead the parents' protest.

"I'm a little concerned that after this whole process you're coming in here and saying, `We didn't get a bus,' " Kendall said. "I think your frustrations come from (being) a parent in your area, not as a committee member."

"Now you're attacking me," Tyler rejoined. "All I can say is what I feel . . . I think I can represent a parent's frustration."

Another parent, Jaclynne Rigby, told the school board she was not satisfied with the committee's work because the members didn't actually drive the routes as part of their deliberations.

Rigby served as a member of a safe-walking committee that laid some of the groundwork for choosing hazardous busing routes.

"We did everything that we were asked to do, then you (school officials) said there would be a committee who would drive these routes," she said. "You don't understand (a route) unless you drive it on a bus and see the traffic and everything else that the children have to go through.

"All I'm saying is the process was not done as you promised it would be done."

"I don't remember that that promise (to drive the routes) was ever made," Assistant Superintendent Lynn Trenbeath said. "That was just one of the ways the committee could view them if they so chose."

Committee members said the process was equitably done.

"We felt it was fair," Nelson said. "We didn't feel there was a need to drive the routes with the information we had."

Lack of time was a problem. Tyler said driving the routes around seven schools near his house, about 20 routes, took him six hours, but even so he said the committee should have taken the time to go through all the routes.

The committee process plus altercations with school officials left him with a sour taste in his mouth.

"The whole thing was kind of painful," he said.

In the midst of testy exchanges between parents and board members during the meeting, committee member Jeff Williams advocated calm. The problem, he said, was simply one of obtaining more money from the state.

"It disturbs me to see the school district and parents at each others' throats so much when who we should be talking to is the Legislature."

The $325,000 for hazardous route busing comes from $900,000 the school district gains from a 1-mill tax levy on county residents. The residue is used to purchase new buses and to transport students to special activities.