Va. school bus cuts take toll on students and parents

Andrew Mollenbeck,

ARLINGTON, Va. – Cutting bus service at several Arlington County schools has led to claims that students might fall behind their peers academically and that some parents have lost their jobs.

“Like today they’re wet, they’re hungry and they’re not ready to learn,” Ryoko Reed, vice president of the PTA, said as rain soaked students arrived for breakfast.

“This creates even more of an achievement gap in our school and that’s what we care about – that all kids can learn,” she said.

Starting this academic year, elementary students who live less than a mile from the school have had to find their own way to class. For those families without a vehicle, it can mean a parent sacrificing work to go along with their kids or older students herding their younger siblings alone.

“Please, we need help,” Julienne Nzinga, a mother, pleaded after walking through heavy rain on Tuesday.

She’s worried the walk to school in the rain or cold will make the kids sick.

Parents of students at Campbell Elementary School are planning carpool rides to the next school board meeting on Thursday.

Arlington County is aware of the concerns. At previous board meetings, parents described how some families in the community are struggling to adjust.

Jose Armando Cubias is also concerned about the impact of kids walking 10 or 20 minutes to school.

“More than anything, it’s their safety,” he says. “The traffic on [Carlin Springs Road] isn’t slow. It’s fast.”

The morning walk to school now ends with parents sharing their struggles and planning ways to raise the profile of the bus service cut.

“We need for the bus to return please,” says Esmeralda Guevara.

She’s most concerned about young students crossing intersections without an adult.

But Guevara, like other parents who have chosen to walk their kids to class, has sacrificed her work. She is a babysitter.

“They don’t want to come [only] to leave the kids walking,” she says.

But she believes the alternative would be for her son to miss school, which she won’t allow.

“I lost my job because of the problem of the morning schedule,” says another mom who did not give her name.

Similar versions of that story persist among families who previously relied on the bus but do not have a vehicle.

“I have lost hours at my work every day since the start of the suspended bus service,” says a father who only gave his name as Emilio.

“I think that all the kids deserve the respect, deserve the help principally of the school, [especially] of the school bus,” he says.

The Arlington County School Board meets Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

(Jose Armando Cubias, Esmeralda Guevara and Emilio were translated from Spanish by WTOP’s Andrew Mollenbeck)

Follow Andrew Mollenbeck and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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