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The day her van’s transmission stopped, Kim Gabbard wondered how she would get her three grandchildren to school when the new school year began about a month later.
She couldn’t walk them there because of her heart condition. She didn’t want to inconvenience family and friends.
That’s when she called the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.’s transportation department — only to be told the district wouldn’t provide bus service, because Gabbard lives outside busing limits, in a walk zone.
Fortunately, it appears things will work out for Gabbard. She began borrowing a friend’s vehicle last week, and some mechanics have offered to fix her van at a discount.
But she still is angry with the school district and would like to see changes.
Meanwhile, Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. officials are maintaining that the woman’s heart condition and her grandchildren’s emotional issues were not enough reason to grant an exception to the district’s policies.
Those policies state that elementary-age children can be bused only if they live more than a mile away from their school.
“We have a limited budget and a responsibility to the taxpayer,” Superintendent John Quick said. “If we make an exception for this lady, then where do we draw the line?”
Gabbard, 51, who lives at 2505 Franklin St., said her 6- and 8-year-old grandchildren have emotional problems that require medication and make walking to Schmitt
Elementary School too
dangerous without adult
The woman said she has heart problems that render her unable to walk the children along the suggested route of Franklin Street to 27th Street. She said she could not afford to fix her van previously, because she is on a limited income. That prevented her from driving them.
What she really wanted was for the school bus to pick up the children and bring them home from school. She said the bus runs only a few houses away from the designated bus zone and her situation should have constituted a special circumstance.
The 6-year-old girl, who sees a psychiatrist and life skills coach, does not have the maturity to walk to school, especially where there are no sidewalks, Gabbard said. And the 8-year-old boy has attention deficit disorder.
She said her 10-year-old granddaughter, who does not have any of the emotional problems her siblings have, walks with the children but is too young to keep them from running into the road if they break away from her.
“There’s nowhere for them to walk anyway,” Gabbard said. “There’s no sidewalks in some places. That means the kids have to walk in the road or in people’s yards.
“That’s not acceptable.”
Though they granted Gabbard an exception last school year, school corporation officials this year enforced their policy and declined to provide busing to the children.
Quick said the school system makes exceptions in some parts of the district to its rule that young children can be bused only if they live outside a mile of their school. Those exceptions generally are made for safety, particularly when students would have to cross a busy road.
But Quick said that just because Gabbard’s grandchildren have emotional issues does not necessarily mean they cannot get themselves to school safely. And if a concern exists about that, the children could walk in groups with other children who also walk.
“It’s only a few blocks for them,” Quick said. “They don’t have to cross a major road to get there. A lot of kids out there have to walk a lot farther than these kids walk.”
Karen Wetherald, transportation manager for the school district, said she doesn’t want to sound unsympathetic to Gabbard’s dilemma. But the school district needs to draw strong lines to strike a balance between compassion and fairness to taxpayers who pay the tab.
Compassion came into play just last week, for example, when Wetherald made an exception for a child in East Columbus who would have had to cross State Street, which she considers a busy road.
“We try to be as reasonable as we can,” Quick said.
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