More students could be walking to school in Fairfax County in the future, rather than riding the bus.
Because of the significant drop in tax revenues, county officials have already trimmed police, fire, library, and transpiration budgets. Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay is suggesting that school officials consider expanding the boundary distances that trigger bus eligibility.
Currently, if a student lives more than a mile from an elementary school, or more than 1.5 miles from a middle or high school, that student is eligible for free bus service.
“It costs us as much money to operate a school bus each year as it does to put a teacher in a classroom,” says McKay, who adds he would rather spend money on more sidewalks and trails, and get more children walking to school.
Residents appear divided on the proposal. Retiree Carl Sell believes, “There are some areas, my community — Rose Hill — [where more walkers] will work pretty well. I can think of other areas — Clifton, the Western part of the county, where it won’t work so well.”
Tracey Coon, a mother whose child attends Lee High School adamantly opposes McKay’s idea. “I want [my kid] on a bus,” Coon declared.
Supervisor McKay concedes he’s gotten some grief for floating the idea, and says he’s not married to the concept of trimming school bus service. But McKay points out that the projected budget deficit for next year is around $500 million, and he believes many program cuts are likely.