By Joshua Winata
Killeen Daily Herald
A ride on a big, yellow school bus will no longer be part of the back-to-school experience for some students who live along Farm-to-Market 1113.
Following the construction of sidewalks along the road, also known as Avenue B, the Copperas Cove Independent School District has eliminated the bus route that runs through the area.
According to the Texas Education Code, school districts are required to provide transportation only to students who live more than two miles from their campus or must travel through a "hazardous" area.
With the new walkway in place, Avenue B has lost its "hazardous" designation, and along with it the school bus service to J.L. Williams/Lovett Ledger Elementary School.
Parents are upset by the change, especially those who have young children. James Pygott, father of Williams/Ledger students Kayla, 7, and James, 6, has rearranged his schedule in order to take his children to school in the morning.
"Common sense tells you that little children do not need to be walking down that road by themselves," Pygott said.
Pygott has several concerns about the walking route that his children are being forced to take. The sidewalk, only about 10 feet from the busy thoroughfare, passes through City Park over a creek and near playground equipment, which poses a potential distraction for young ones on their way to class.
The route also takes them through the parking lot of a busy 7-Eleven store and in front of Fire Station No. 2, where loud sirens and lights could startle or scare children.
Limited by state restrictions and funding availability, the school district is doing its best to ameliorate some of the transportation issues. This year the morning bell has been pushed back by 15 minutes, a schedule change designed to give students more daylight during their morning walk and allow time for the rush of traffic to ease.
Pygott said this measure is not sufficient, especially after daylight saving time ends in November.
"The problem is the folks who make the decisions aren't out here looking at these little kids trying to walk on the street," he said. "I understand someone thinks it's safe, but have they stood out on this road at 6:45 or 7 and seen the traffic?"
CCISD also offers students not on the bus route to apply for temporary bus passes, which allow students to ride on buses if space allows.
"If we're going to bus kids, we want full buses," CCISD Deputy Superintendent Dr. Bobby Ott said.
Those with bus passes must wait until at least next week when the district gets an accurate estimate of bus ridership and can determine available space before being approved for transportation.
For more information about obtaining a bus pass, contact the Copperas Cove ISD transportation department at (254) 547-3324.