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Kids forced to walk along busy roads to rural schools

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POSTED August 21, 2009 2:47 a.m.
Joanna de Graaf is concerned about the safety of youngsters walking to and from New Haven School.

With classes back in session, the mother of two – her children are ages 6 and 8 – took notice of Manteca Unified’s “no bus zone” plan in effect.

She was none too pleased.

“I saw a nearly empty bus make three stops, picking up one and leaving nine kids,” de Graaf said on Thursday.

She resides in the rural area of French Camp Road between Prescott and Austin roads, and well within the 1.25-mile radius of the campus for kindergarten- through eighth-grade students as specified by the “no bus zone” plan approved in June by the school board as a Level II cut.

The district, facing an estimated $31 million budget shortfall, cut down on the home-to-school transportation, thus, saving about $300,000 for the 2009-10 school year.

According to de Graaf, the “no bus zone” may work in the City of Manteca, where public transportation is available.

Her rural area has no such options, particularly with no sidewalks or cross walks in existence. She’s also concerned about the upcoming foggy days.

Adding to the problem is the San Joaquin County waste facility on south Austin Road, where de Graaf, from the morning hours of 5:15 to 7:45, videotaped 93 trucks – that’s not counting cars – using the route in front of the school a few months ago.

Fortunately, she and her husband are flexible enough in their work schedule to drive their children to and from school.

But they also noticed problems with more cars on the road, including an incident in front of the school.

“My husband witnessed a woman speeding around all of the people in line at the drop off. She almost ran over a mother and her three children while talking on her cell phone,” said de Graaf.

She’s been in contact with board members over her transportation concerns, and is making plans to attend Tuesday’s board meeting.

The open session begins at 7 p.m. in the district administration building.
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