Thursday, August 26, 2004

Cuts force students to find rides or walk

Back to school: With no bus service, 'It's a mess'

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

FAIRFIELD - Some teens had to trek a mile or more, including along a state highway without sidewalks. Families moved up their daily schedules, and many parents driving their kids to and from the first day of school here Wednesday found themselves simmering in traffic snarls.

It was all part of the fallout from a failed levy that resulted in an end of busing for students at the Fairfield freshman and high school buildings.

Students (from left) Megan Wiles, Britney Buchanan, Katherine Jordan, and Ashlye Johnson leave Fairfield Freshman School Monday afternoon and walk along Route 4 near Nilles Road.
(Enquirer photo/GLENN HARTONG)
"It's a mess," said Kayla Estelle, 14, who was upset while trying to find her carpool ride home. "I was scared at first."

Police expressed concern, too.

"There was no way for this to flow well. The kids had no idea where their parents were in this mile-long line," said Fairfield Police spokesman Lt. Ken Colburn, who helped direct traffic at the Freshman School. There were no related injuries reported.

This Butler County suburban city isn't the only place where parents and students are adjusting to life without school buses. Thousands of teens have had to find other transportation this week after high school bus service was eliminated in the Edgewood, Three Rivers, Winton Woods and Franklin schools - also because of worsening finances in the wake of failed levies earlier this year.

But the worst problems appeared to be here as school resumed. Fairfield, its senior high and freshman buildings near congested Ohio 4, ended busing and made other cuts - including instituting pay-to-participate activity fees - after voters rejected operating levies in March and again Aug. 3.

Jeff Priceleft his Fairfield Township home an hour before classes dismissed Wednesday, to beat the crowd and pick up his child and others at the Freshman School.

"My neighbor dropped them off in the morning," Price said.

"I didn't know what to expect today so I left early. I'll probably get here early again."

Price considered himself lucky.

He didn't get caught in traffic jams that brought traffic to a standstill along busy Ohio 4 for 30 minutes in the morning and longer in the afternoon. The last of cars coming to pick up ninth-graders didn't pull off Ohio 4 until 2:30 p.m., 45 minutes after classes ended.

"The afternoon was worse than the morning because of the number of kids all leaving at the same time," Fairfield Senior High School Principal Paul Waller said. "In the morning, they came in more staggered."

In Trenton, Ohio 73 just outside the city limits had to be closed for a while Tuesday as Edgewood middle and high schools were dismissing. Wednesday, school officials, working in cooperation with the Butler County Sheriff's Office and Trenton police, opened Busenbark Road and allowed high school traffic to flow behind the middle school.

"There are still traffic problems," said Det.Monte Mayer, public information officer for the sheriff's office. "We're still trying to come up with a plan that will work for everyone. It's a work in progress."

Edgewood Superintendent Tom York said he was pleased with the progress Wednesday, the second day of classes.

"Everybody was out of the high school in 20 minutes, which was 15 minutes faster than Tuesday," York said. "That may be the best we get."

In both Fairfield and Edgewood, officials agreed to open buildings earlier than usual as students were dropped off. Fairfield Freshman School Principal Robert Polson said one student arrived at 5:30 a.m., 90 minutes before classes began.

Another student, Kelli Cleary, now has to walk 11/2 miles home because her parents are both at work when classes dismiss.

"I don't like it. It makes me not want to go to school," she said.


Michael Clark contributed to this report.


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