Arcadia school board votes to restore bus service

    School bus. (Photo licensed by Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0)
    School bus. (Photo licensed by Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0)

    On Monday night the Arcadia school board reversed a controversial decision to deny bus service to students who live within two miles of school. 

    The board voted unanimously to add the entire two-mile area around the school to the district’s “unusually hazardous transportation plan,” 

    The decision to cut back bus service this year, after years of making exceptions for some students, upset members of the community who did not want to see children as young as 4 years old walking long distances to school on busy streets. Opposition was exacerbated by recent ICE raids in a community where 70% of school children are Latino.

    In a September 30 hearing, immigrants-rights advocate Mireya Sigala accused the board of not taking into account the circumstances of the district’s large population of Latino families and showing a lack of consideration by not bringing an interpreter to the meeting. She closed her remarks by urging members of the audience to run for a seat on the board.

    School superintendent Lance Bagstad said the school-bus rule was an effort to make all students subject to the same state rules that say districts don’t have to transport students within two miles of school, instead of allowing some families to get bus service within the two-mile radius while others did not.

    Districts can get state aid to offer transportation in unusually hazardous areas, however.

    If  accepted by the Department of Public Instruction, the new plan will allow the district to receive state aid for transportation of children in 4K through fourth grade who live within two miles of school.

    Those students could begin to ride the bus by mid-November, Bagstad told the La Crosse Tribune.

    “They did comment that this is a short-term plan and they would like to form a committee moving forward,” said Suzanne Vasquez, a parent and former teacher in Arcadia who started a petition drive to restore bus service. “I sent an email so I can be a part of the committee.”

    “It’s going in the direction I think everybody would hope it would,” Vazquez said of the bus-route debate. “If we were still at square one I’d be so upset. But after taking the time to have that public meeting and giving people time to speak, I feel pretty good about it.”

    Ruth Conniff
    Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin Examiner. She formerly served as Editor-in-chief of The Progressive Magazine, and opened the Progressive’s office in Washington, DC, during the Clinton Administration, where she made her debut as a political pundit on CNN’s Capital Gang Sunday and Fox News. She moved to Oaxaca, Mexico, for a year in 2017, where she covered U.S./Mexico relations, the migrant caravan, and Mexico’s efforts to grapple with Donald Trump. Conniff is a frequent guest on All in with Chris Hayes on MSNBC and has appeared on Good Morning America, Democracy Now!, Wisconsin Public Radio, and other radio and television programs. In 2011, she did award-winning coverage of the uprising against Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin. She has also written for The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. Conniff graduated from Yale University in 1990, where she ran track and edited the campus magazine The New Journal.