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BUSING POLICY DUE FOR THOROUGH REVIEW

Bus transportation in the Hamburg Central School District is about to get a thorough review that ultimately could result in a separate transportation budget proposition if any additional expenses result.

The decision last week to conduct a complete review of the district's transportation policy over the next couple of months stems from complaints in September by two groups of parents concerned about bus pickup points for their children on streets with cul-de-sacs. At issue is the policy in the newly developed Alexander Way neighborhood in Orchard Park and the Willowbrook Drive area near Bussendorfer Road.

"We feel the transportation policy has not been analyzed in many years, and the issue is much bigger and broader than cul-de-sacs," said interim Superintendent Edwin Osborne. "The issue is greater than students having to walk up to one mile. . . . Our practices could change."

The School Board designated a separate Transportation Committee -- comprising some board trustees, school administrators and parents -- that is expected to meet again within two weeks to begin a comprehensive look at the district's transportation policies. This represents the first review of the policy in the last 10 years.

Those who sparked the issue live in the Town of Orchard Park, but are in the Hamburg School District, and are requesting additional bus stops along their street.

Parent Louis R. Maino of Alexander Way last month spearheaded a contingent of about a dozen parents who are upset because Fisher Bus Service, with which the district contracts for transportation, no longer picks up children in the cul-de-sac area of Alexander Way this year.

Instead, elementary pupils are asked to walk two-tenths of a mile from their home to a common bus stop at Hedgerow Drive near the busy Armor Heights apartment complex. High school students in that neighborhood must get the bus at Armor Duells Road, one of the main routes that is highly traveled.

Elementary pupils in the district can be expected to walk up to a mile to their bus stop, while the limit is 1.5 miles for middle schoolers and high school students. Administrators say students will continue to be bused the way they are at the current pickup points, with nothing changing unless the committee recommends a different policy that is then approved by the board.

"I really have no idea where we'll go from this point," or whether the distance for students to walk to designated bus pickup points would be shortened, Osborne said Tuesday. He noted, though, that the committee also is sensitive to more concerns this year from parents of full-day kindergartners. The district this fall just switched to full-day kindergarten from a half-day program.

At last week's board session, Trustee Mark Walling said he did not feel that expecting children to walk two-tenths of a mile to get the bus was unreasonable. "I don't have complete sympathy," he said.

If any significant changes are made to the policy, the district may face a separate transportation proposition to address additional funding needs, officials said.

Board Vice President Eileen Rucker, also a member of the subcommittee, said it was "an eye-opener" to learn that students may have to walk up to a mile to get to their bus stop. But that does not happen often, though, she said.

Trustee Steve Hanson noted that properly maintained and cleaned sidewalks -- the responsibility of homeowners and the village -- also play a role.

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