Three weeks into school and 16 bus routes down, School District 51 students and the parents who drive or walk them to school are gradually adapting to walking boundary changes.The district pushed the boundaries back this year by a mile to a two-mile walking radius for elementary school students and a three-mile walking radius for middle and high school students. District 51 School Board members decided on the change in June in hopes of saving up to $650,000 as part of a $5.76 million budget cut for 2012-13. Reductions will cover pay increases for district employees, who had frozen salaries for up to three years; anticipated enrollment declines; a mandatory increase in retirement benefit contributions; and money to keep the district’s maintenance fund flat.
District 51 Safety and Transportation Director Tim Leon said the district still plans to save close to $650,000 but is unlikely to save the full amount because some bus routes were extended to pick up extra students due to safety concerns. Parents could lodge complaints with the district online beginning Aug. 6 if they felt a bus route had been cut in an area that would require students to walk an unsafe route to school. The page is still available on the district’s website, d51schools.org, but Leon said the more than 100 concerns he received via e-mail have trickled done to nearly zero since about the middle of the second week of school.
“I know that parents don’t like some of it but they’ve adapted and kids are getting to school on time, they’re getting to school safely, and that was our goal,” Leon said.