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Parents criticize Maryvale walking policy following accident

A week after a fifth-grade student crossing Maryvale Drive was accidently hit by a car, parents filled the room at the Maryvale School Board meeting Monday to question administrators about how to make the area safer for walkers.
The girl was on her way to school Sept. 19 when she was struck by a car on Maryvale Drive. The driver reportedly was unable to see the red traffic light because of glare from the sun.
The 10-year-old girl, who had been walking to school since the third grade, according to Superintendent Deborah Ziolkowski, was taken to Women & Children's Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and is still recovering.
"She has a long road ahead of her," said Ziolkowski, who has been in regular contact with the girl's family.
However, parents are concerned about a district decision that forces more students to walk to school following a change in the Maryvale High School daily start time.
The district moved the high school start time from 7 a.m. to 8:30, placing it five minutes apart from the middle school start. As a result, now high and middle school students are bused together.
However, district officials say Maryvale's transportation policy has remained consistent, but it now is being enforced.
Previously, students who would technically be considered walkers were allowed to ride the buses just to fill up empty seats, but because of the time change, all Maryvale buses are already filled with students outside the walking distance.
The change - and last week's accident - riled some parents who spoke at Monday's meeting.
"If you're going to have all these kids walking down Union Road, where are all the flashing signs?" asked parent Dina Bonafede, whose son was hit by a car a few months ago in a non-school-related incident.
"Don't think it was OK until that girl got hurt," said Candy Young. "It was never OK. If we lose one child, it's so not worth whatever money you're saving."
To appease concerned parents, Ziolkowski invited them to form a committee to discuss transportation and walker safety with district officials. She is also talking with Town of Cheektowaga officials about road signs.