Bus service for Pioneer students on 172nd Street suspended

Janna Clowes, her daughter Madeline and husband Robert at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 10, on part of the Arlington School Districts safe walking path for Pioneer Elementary students. -
Janna Clowes, her daughter Madeline and husband Robert at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 10, on part of the Arlington School Districts safe walking path for Pioneer Elementary students.
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ARLINGTON Busing and walking routes have become issues for Pioneer Elementary parents in the neighborhoods along 172nd Street, since the Arlington School District let them know Sept. 7 that they will no longer be providing transportation within a one-mile radius of the school.
Robert and Janna Clowes admit that, as residents of the Magnolia neighborhood, they live closer to Pioneer than many of the schools other parents, who will likewise no longer have bus service for their children starting Sept. 24. However, they expressed concerns about the conditions of the school-designated safe walking path that their two daughters, 6 and 8 years old, will have to navigate every morning and afternoon.
I dont feel comfortable sending them through the woods in the dark, said Janna Clowes, referring to one stretch of the path thats without lighting and flanked by overhanging trees. I walked a distance to school when I was a kid, but in this day and age? Weve had sightings of cougars and bears in this area, and with the number of registered sex offenders in this zip code, its a tragedy waiting to happen.
Both Janna and Robert Clowes leave for work at 6:15 a.m., and Jannas mother is unable to drive. The school district held a meeting in June to inform the local community that bus stops would no longer be available in their neighborhoods, but the Clowes moved to Arlington in July, and saw no indications that the bus stops they thought they had would be taken away.
Even in the information packages we got, just a week before school started, those bus stops were listed in the school schedules, Robert Clowes said. There werent any asterisks next to them or anything. I dont consider this path safe for a 6-year-old, especially when it starts getting dark sooner.
ASD Public Information Coordinator Misti Gilman apologized for the miscommunication that occurred between the school district and the Pioneer parents along 172nd.
Wed decided to continue to offer stops at the development entrances on 172nd, to accommodate the students who live nearest the entrance, Gilman said. The unexpected number of students we saw on the bus during the first week of school indicated to us that the rest of the neighborhoods students werent walking to school, but were instead expecting bus service. That created confusion, though, since many parents got the idea that wed simply moved their bus stops, and thats my fault.
Gilman explained that the one-mile radius comes from state law, and acknowledged that school district transportation never should have been offered within that radius in the first place, especially since students within one mile of other elementary schools in the district must walk.
We have an obligation to the safety of the children, but we also have a responsibility to the taxpayers, Gilman said. There are also safety issues created by having too many children at bus stops, especially on a road like 172nd, which has a lot of speeding.
As a school district parent herself, Gilman sympathized with the Pioneer parents misgivings and assured them that the district is speaking with the property owners along the district-designated walking path, to suggest cutting back the trees and installing more lights.
Its a shame, because the schools been so great otherwise, Robert Clowes said. Madeline had a bit of an attachment disorder, leaving her mother on the first day, we got calls from the school and they paired her up with a buddy. They even checked in on her the next day without my asking. I dont want to have to worry about my daughters when Im at work. We moved here from Bothell because we saw this as a safer community.

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