Elgin parents angry over school bus stop changes

August 22, 2011 (ELGIN, Ill.)

Angry parents say Elgin Area District U-46 is putting some of their kids in harm's way, making them walk up to a mile and a half to catch a bus to school.

"The path that she has to go through in the neighborhood, go to the Illinois state website -- there are three registered sex offenders. She's walking at 6:15 in the morning," said parent Claudia Witt.

District U-46 is the second largest school district in the state and its school buses carry more than 26,000 students to school every day. But the state budget crunch has left the district transportation budget with a huge deficit. They hope to save more than a million dollars by consolidating pickups, asking high school kids to walk to the closest elementary school to save time and gas spent going to individual neighborhoods to pick them up.

"Our district has lost $14 million over the last few years from the state of Illinois for transportation funding. If we don't make changes now, then that money is going to have to start coming out of the classroom," said District U-45 spokesman Tony Sanders.

Parents say early morning pickups, however, mean teenagers start walking in the dark, sometimes through dangerous areas and on high traffic roads. They also object to the district presenting the plan just two days before school starts.

"What price do you put on child's safety? And when a child gets hurt, are you willing to address this issue at that time?" said parent Ed Gholston.

"You really expect me, being a girl, to walk in front of a sex offender? No, I'm serious, like no," said Elgin High School student Daniela Perez

Administrators say they're asking nothing of high school students that they don't already ask of elementary school students. Some parents disagree but school officials say the state budget crunch left them with few alternatives.

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