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.”