U-46 students back to school amid bus controversy
August 24, 2011 (BARTLETT, Ill.) (WLS) -- Classes started Wednesday in Illinois' second largest school district, but not without controversy.
More than half the 40,000 students in northwest suburban School District U-46 ride the bus, and that bus service has been drastically cut.
In the last few years, the district has lost $14 million in state funding, and that means a huge hole in the budget.
District U-46 has plenty of buses. In fact, it has the largest fleet of yellow school buses in the state. But, to save money on gas and driver pay, all high school bus riders in the district now are to walk to their nearest elementary or middle school to catch a bus.
The plan is projected to save $1.25 million per school year.
Bartlett father Nagresh Brahmbatt and his wife have to leave for work at 5:30 a.m. Nagresh will be late every day because he doesn't want his daughter walking a mile during the winter dark for her 7 a.m. bus.
"When you wake up in the morning, you really don't want to go to school and stuff, and it just makes you not want to go to school even more," said Brahmbatt's daughter Puja Brahmbhatt. "So they just made matters worse."
"It does not make any sense," said Nagresh Brahmbatt. "Where does this money go? How do they poorly manage the money? They don't have enough for transportation?"
U-46 district officials point out that cuts have also been made to salaries, office jobs, health insurance and supplies.
"When you're making these changes, it's very difficult. This was a last minute change because of a last minute action that affected funding," said U-46 safety coordinator John Heiderscheidt.
District officials encourage students to walk with friends or form car pools.
If no school is within 1 1/2 miles of a student's home, or if there is a hazard, the district will find a neighborhood stop for them.
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