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Letter to the Editor: Who is Looking Out for Our Children?

Send your letter to the editor to steven.jack@patch.com

I am writing with serious concerns about the recent transportation change discussions in .  I am a Homestead parent with a child in second grade and another child entering full-day Kindergarten next year at Eastview. I reside in Columbia Station at the Wheatlands. 

It has been brought to our attention that the Transportation Department has suspended bus service to the majority of kids living in our neighborhood.  Any child within 1.5 miles of Homestead will now be a walker. 

Any child living over 1.5 miles will still receive bus service.  What does this mean for MANY Columbia Station families, mine included as we live 1.4 miles away from our school?  Our kids will not get bussed to school, but kids who live 1/10 of a mile further WILL. 

In order for my children to walk to Homestead, they would potentially have to cross over two fairly busy roads (Spinnaker and Barrington) and one very busy road (Hafenrichter). 

This is certainly not a viable option. I will not place my children in harms way to help the school district save money.  In fact, I think most of us can agree that should a child be hurt, or God forbid killed, walking over these busy roads, any savings the school district could have gained would certainly be "lost" in subsequent litigation. 

Angie Smith from the transportation department confirmed to me via email that "we have looked at the streets in that area and believe that with the addition of a crossing guard, this route to school is safe for students."  I wonder if Miss Smith has ever stood at the corner of Hafenrichter and Middlebury to see how fast the cars travel? 

Does she realize that his intersection comes just after a "blind" corner and just after a very long railroad crossing?  Does she expect us to believe that a crossing guard can actually control the flow of traffic there?  Once again, this school district has proven that what looks on paper, doesn't always look good in reality. 

Miss Smith also went on to blame the state of Illinois for this.  I am not naive, I do understand that when the state cuts funds, something has to give.  But does this "give" need to come at the price of our children's safety?  And please Miss Smith, don't insult my intelligence.  The state didn't decide to cancel my child's bus service, your department did. 

Then to find out that the school district has somehow managed to come up with a 17.5 percent pay increase for the incoming superintendent?  Is this some kind of sick joke?  How many of us have received a 17.5 percent pay increase during these tough economic times?  If the district can come up with this money, why can't they come up with the money to get our kids to school safely?

I realize that the school board and the people in charge of District 308 are faced with challenges every day.  However, at some point COMMON SENSE must prevail.  If anyone out there thinks that having our elementary-aged children walking over three busy roads to get to school makes sense, I have serious doubts that they are exercising any common sense at all.

This is not a matter of inconvenience.  This is not a matter of personal preference.  This is not a matter of "us vs. them."  This is a matter of our children's safety and we ALL share in that responsibility!

At some point someone needs to stand up and say "hey, who is looking out for our children?!"

Missy Dziewiatkowski, Auora

mike ellison April 23, 2012 at 03:17 PM
The solution to your problem is to drive your own children to school. Or, drive them part way so that they don't have to cross over the busy street. The economy is in shambles and people are going to have to start doing a lot more things on their own. Your argument about about kids 1/10th of a mile away getting bus service is non-sensicle. No matter where you draw the 'line', there will always be someone located one inch on the other side of the line who receives bus service. That will always be the situation. I do agree with you about the District wasting money with outrageously high salaries. But I also saw how much money was wasted when the District didn't charge high enough impact fees for new homeowners in the subdivisions that were being built, thus increasing property taxes for us long time residents. Many residents got cheaper houses as a result, but are now wondering where the money is to pay for basic services.
Vikki Gustafson April 23, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Sorry to say, but I have been dealing with the exact same situation for the last several years. My neighbors receive bus service, but we do not. Our children have to cross Mill Road, which is a very busy thoroughfare. We have to drive the kids to/from school or they ride bikes. The crossing guards are outstanding! They have a tremendous handle on the children's safety. The State Of Illinois won't reimburse the district for transportation under 1.5 miles from home to school. The district simply can't afford to keep paying for all of these services. As big of an inconvenience as it is, rest assured, it's happening all over, and has been for some time now.
OswegoMom April 23, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Understood that the district needs to cut where they need to cut. The question remains though - is why wasn't Wolf's Crossing proposed for any bus cuts? The WC community is the one that spoke to the point that they WANTED to become a walking school. In fact, they argued that they were they only school that COULD become a walking school. It is my understanding that they were not considered at this time due to safety issues. I think we are only asking that any safety issues that may be within the Homestead walkers paths be reviewed and properly considered and evaluated in that same light.
Concerned Mom April 23, 2012 at 05:42 PM
The issues with the school board are getting out of hand... Doesn't anyone see the issues that have come up since this board was electe... We have had 3+ high ranking school officials leave, we have lost a really good principal and from what I have been told, we are probably going to see others leave.. We need to get the school board to work for US, not against us... They were elected by the PEOPLE and they need to serve the PEOPLE, not there own agenda...I have been going to the school board meetings ever since the issues with the junior high came to light, I cannot believe how these people act...Now this issue with busing comes around, it just never ends. We all understand how underfunded our schools are due to state issues, but I can definately agree that the safety of our children needs to come first! I am sure their are other ways to cut money from the budget to accomodate the current level of busing.
JMH April 23, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Sorry Missy but you are just going to have to get over it. The same thing happened to my children when they put the crossing guard at Hafenricher and Barrington Drive and everyone survived. The rule is 1.5 miles, if you are under that, your children walk. Like someone else mentioned above, if you do not want your child to walk, the answer is that you drive them or arrange a carpool with other parents. This is not the school board's fault, it is the State of Illinois for not providing the funding. The cuts need to come from somewhere. You'll get used to it, it was only a matter of time before they did this.
Wendie April 23, 2012 at 06:11 PM
The difference is the crossing at Hafenrichter and Barrington is much safer than the one at Middlebury and Hafenrichter. In order for kids (and the increased traffic) to safely cross that intersection there needs to be a four way stop. There is no way a crossing guard alone can manage that intersection. I have also voiced my concerns to the transportation department regarding this. I understand cuts have to be made but before that is done we want to make sure our kids can get to school safely. I can only hope that keeping our kids safe is something we can all agree on.
Jane Enviere April 23, 2012 at 06:28 PM
I can appreciate the frustration, for sure. However, the reality is that someone is always going to be 1/10th of a mile short of the cut-off. The other reality is that someone is always going to be unhappy or inconvenienced by a change. That's the way it goes. We all advocate to not be that person, but ultimately, some of us will end up in that spot. The incessant complaining about the board is silly. And, in this case, largely misplaced. I'd be willing to bet that it wouldn't matter who sits on this board, these types of expense reductions would be happening. The state has long been in poor fiscal health and after kicking the can down the road, we are now face-to-face with a dismal economic situation. It was a matter of time before things caught up to us, and now we find ourselves staring at an ugly reality -- there isn't enough money for everything. It's too bad that there can't be another alternative for folks who find themselves in this situation. Having grown up in a large suburban district that offered paid bus service for those who lived less than the 1.5 miles away, that was a nice amenity. Well, until you were too cool for the bus and just walked the 1.3 miles. ; )
KRM April 23, 2012 at 06:47 PM
How would you feel if they charged for busing instead?
OswegoMom April 23, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Can't believe I am writing this but in all fairness, it was not the School Board who proposed the specific changes, it was the Transportation Department. And it was not the School Board who cut the funding, it was the State. Members of the School Board did pose some questions about the proposals and added that they would like to discuss others further. However, as it is the School Board who will ultimately vote on this issue, we ask both them and the Transportation Department to familiarize themselves with the intersections of concern, listen to the specific safety concerns of those familiar with the current travel in these areas on a daily basis, and then ultimately ask that they make a sound recommendation as to how safety will be maintained, whether it is an increase of those on foot or in cars. We ask that the School Board be familiar with what our concerns are and have those making the recommendations at least address them. It is unfortunate, but it seems inevitable, that the buses will be lost. But at least acknowledge that there are safety issues and risks with these intersections. Don't pretend that there are not. I think people would be more supportive if they were to say "Yes, we studied the traffic flow and we see it is insane. But, ultimately we have no choice and will work with the community to do what we can" rather than "there is no safety issue - all is fine."
Concerned Parent April 23, 2012 at 08:06 PM
We have to get over it? How much more to come that we will have to get over? I am sick and tired of being told to get over it when it comes to my child!! It seems that lately all the families from Homestead are hearing GET OVER IT!! Well, I certainly can't get over the fact that I pay HUGE taxes and are constantly being told to GET OVER IT!!
Concerned Parent April 23, 2012 at 08:16 PM
I think it is AMAZING that once again WC isn't even considered!
Concerned Parent April 23, 2012 at 08:26 PM
First, of all the amount of money we pay in taxes each year...WE ARE PAYING!! Now if that isn't enough (which we al know isn't) they I think that there should be an option to pay for busing. There are many working families out there that don't have any other option then to have their kids bused to school. What are they suppose to do? This is getting absolutely ridiculous!! Everytime we turn around something is being yanked away!! What is next?
Dianna Hunter April 23, 2012 at 11:27 PM
My understanding is that this is not a new law with the State of IL. It's only new that our District chooses to implement the 1.5 mile rule now and not 'optionally' bus students that live closer than that. A few crossing guards and blinking lights put in place and we will have healthier children that walk every day. Embrace the change.
James Miravete April 23, 2012 at 11:31 PM
This school board is a joke. Shouldn't they be advocating for our kids? I guess it's hard to do that when you are more worried about your new job or how you are going to spend your new raise. If. Have so many money issues, how can they vote to give the new supt arise? And how in the world is WC except from this? Their whole argument when the discussion about the middle school was that they would become a walking school in order to not get switched to Murphy and as a way to save the district money. What a farce. I pay taxes like everyone and I am also tired of hearing those that get their way tell the others to "get over it". Ae we back in grad school? That's what I tell my kids. I think we all should all come to the realization that those in charge only have their best interests in mind (or the interests of those they know). Illinois politics at its best.
OswegoMom April 24, 2012 at 12:15 AM
Blinking lights and a few crossing guards would definitely take away the safety worries that many are having about Hafenrichter and Middlebury's cross point. From what I understand, though, it is a crossing guard and nothing else. Maybe I have been mis-informed. Would LOVE the blinking lights! I always feel like the stretch of Wolf's Crossing Road with the lights and school zone signs is so well marked.
Richard Saunders April 24, 2012 at 01:00 AM
James, I really hate that you put me in the position of defending this board. Really, I do, But you need to know that the school board, whatever other issues they may have, have not received a raise. In fact, they are unpaid. Get over it.
Walt Hines April 24, 2012 at 02:37 AM
Richard, You never cease to amaze me, this has to be a first! BOE, this is one job I'd pass on, paid or not. This district like so many others will be facing some tough choices in the coming months. The state is broke, our district is seeing red and tax payers are caught in the middle with not much more to give. I'm anxiously waiting for the dreaded tax bill. I have scrimped and saved from every possible corner of my budget and fear that it won't be enough. That whole chicken fryer that I've made last 3 meals will need to be stretched even farther. Lived here all my life and I see the end near. This district has spent the taxpayers money like a bunch of drunken sailors. We were so worried about having the biggest and best without the slightest notion that maybe we should slow down and think this all through. Now we don't have that emergency fund, we're busting at the seams and throwing kids into traffic. Yet we can open the purse strings of our "Dooney and Bourke" and up the price we pay for Administrative replacements. Please someone explain to me when we became Naperville. Have we lost our MINDS or just our COMMON SENSE?
Traci April 24, 2012 at 02:44 AM
I have been behind a school bus going to Southbury elementary school and with the school in sight about 2 blocks away the bus was picking up children. This was last year so I am not sure what the reasons or if it is still happening...
Brett April 24, 2012 at 12:18 PM
I would rather drive my child to school rather than to let them walk, ride their bike or ride the bus to school. At the end of the day, you can say, "My child's safety and well-being is in MY hands".
Logansdad April 24, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Everyone is paying HUGE Taxes - even those that do not have children. These people are paying to support your schools and your child's transportation needs. When I was in school I walked to school. Walking is good for the children and will give them some exercise. If walking is an option, you can always drive them. If that is not an option, there is always a personal driver that you can hire to take your kids anywhere they want.
mike ellison April 24, 2012 at 04:07 PM
It's astonishing how many of these problems are being created by residents from the newer subdivsions in Oswego. First, the impact fee that you all paid did not cover the actual expenses incurred by the District. That's the main problem why therre isn't enough money to cover these sorts of transportation expenses. Secondly, you chose where to live without considering these transportation issues. And now you all complain about busy roads and the such. Too bad. You should have thought of those issues when you first purchased your house in what was obviously a poor location located too far from the schools.
James Miravete April 24, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Richard, Wake up! The board will get paid hansomely for their "efforts" and will look to cash in soon.
James Miravete April 24, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Mike, These "problems" as yopu say are not being created by newer residents. I paid a good deal for my home and pay high taxes which help to support the older homes in the area. Do you think this area would be what it is today without the "newer homeowners"? By the way I have been paying a special assesment since I moved in to help pay for all the new things we have. When is that going to end? I fully understood the transportation issues. I just didn't realize that we would elect incompetant people to make decisions for us. By the way, I never thought that my kids, who live in Aurora, would be going to school in Plainfield for Oswego school district 308. Maybe instead of spending our tax money on pay increases for admin. they could find the money to pay for transportation.
Walt Hines April 24, 2012 at 04:23 PM
WBBM 780AM had a broadcast about the transportation funding in Illinois for schools. There is legislation pending that would allow school districts to get rid of busing all together. Districts would decide for themselves how they would proceed. Make it a user pay system and this could happen in 1.5 yrs. They run their stories on and off most of the day, or you could go to their website. I can't imagine what something like this would cost each child that rides. The taxes are high now, add this to the equation and who in their right mind would consider a move here. We're in some serious trouble folks!

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