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APS Seeks to Clarify Transportation Changes

by ARLnow.com August 27, 2012 at 4:20 pm 8,791 234 Comments

In a letter to parents and in an online video (above), Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy is trying to answer questions and quell outrage among some parents in response to changes to the school system’s busing policies.

Just weeks before the start of school, APS sent letters to parents notifying them that the school system would begin enforcing rules, already in place, that reserve bus transportation for students a mile or more away from their elementary school and 1.5 miles or more away from their middle or high school. Students outside the so-called “walk zones” have been issued passes that allow them to board a bus at a specific bus stop; those inside the walk zones must walk, bike or otherwise find their own transportation to school.

The goal was to increase the efficiency, on-time performance and safety of the bus system by knowing which students will board the bus at which time and place. The changes also made it possible for Arlington to absorb nearly 1,000 new students this year without having to buy additional buses or hire additional drivers.

But hundreds of parents have protested against the changes by signing an online petition or joining a Facebook group called “Arlington Parents for Safe Transportation.” Many of those parents say their children were previously eligible for bus transportation, but were not issued passes this year. They argue that forcing their children to walk to school — sometimes over busy roads — risks their safety.

In his letter, Dr. Murphy said the changes actually improve student safety.

“The primary focus of this transition has been to ensure the safety of our students,” he said. “This means we need to know who is on the bus, and to ensure that our buses are not overcrowded, especially in the face of our growing enrollment needs. We also need to focus on improving on-time service to and from schools. This new system will also ensure that we avoid having too many or too few students assigned to a bus.”

Dr. Murphy struck an apologetic tone when responding to complaints that the changes were made too close to the new school year, which starts on Tuesday, Sept. 4.

“I regret the confusion some families have experienced and want to assure you that we are working to address and respond quickly to the many questions and concerns that have been raised,” Dr. Murphy wrote. “I recognize that notifying you recently of specific changes for your child’s eligibility for the bus service has been disruptive to some families.”

Approximately 14,000 students are eligible for bus transportation this year, while about 9,000 are within their school’s walk zone, according to APS. The letter revealed that a recalculation of distances to schools has prompted APS to eliminate 12 bus stops, affecting about 250 students. (There are 1,783 bus stops across the county.)

Dr. Murphy said some mistakes were made, resulting in bus passes not being issued to some students outside the walk zones. Those mistakes are being corrected, he said, via an ongoing appeals process.

“As many of you are aware, we have found a few errors in our route planning,” Dr. Murphy wrote. “I want to assure you that we are working to correct any errors through the appeals process as quickly as possible. Families affected by these changes are also being notified.”

But not all of the appeals the school system has been receiving are from parents and students in the walk zones.

“It has become apparent that some families were not aware that their student lived within the ‘walk zone’ and were actually ‘walking back’ to get on a bus,” Dr. Murphy said. “We estimate that approximately 1,000-1,500 students ‘walked back’ to get on a bus, resulting in overcrowded buses with students sometimes standing in the aisles. We have received approximately 100 appeals as of today. While some appeals are focused on bus stops that were moved or eliminated, the majority of appeals are due to the elimination of ‘walk backs.'”

“With our growing enrollment, this practice has caused continued overcrowding on many buses,” Dr. Murphy continued. “More importantly, this meant that we did not have an accurate list of the students riding buses, which has been a serious safety concern. Consequently, we can no longer accommodate “walk back” students on our buses.”

In the above video, new APS Transportation Director John Matthews suggested the volume of parent protests exceeded the actual impact of the changes.

“It appears that it’s impacting a lot of people, but the reality is that out of 1,700 bus stops, it really is only eliminating about a dozen bus stops,” he said. “There’s still more people that are impacted by the adherence to the policy that you are not allowed any longer to walk back [to bus stops].”

Matthews said that APS will continue to pick up students from bus stops regardless of whether they have a pass.

“We’re not going to leave children at a bus stop,” he said. “Although, we do expect only eligible riders to ride buses.”

  • Joe Hoya

    I don’t think the second paragraph of this piece is accurate. Parents were notified of the decision to start enforcing the no-walkback rule in early July. What took place a few weeks before the start of school was that APS began sending out vouchers to families who were outside the walk zone.

    • Right… the first letter was sent on July 9, which was seven weeks ago. The second was sent on Aug. 1, which was less than four weeks ago. Which part of the second paragraph was inaccurate?

      • Susan

        “Just weeks before the start of school,” implies the letter was sent a couple weeks ago, instead of almost two months before the start of the school year. It seems like you are being biased towards the complaining parents.

        • pdksobe

          agreed. arlnow is very bias against aps and the taxpayer in this story.

          if you can’t walk, drive, or alternate with a parent in your neighborhood your kids to school, i have no sympathy for you.

          you’re not forced to send your brats to aps or have children in the 1st place if you’re not responsible enough parents to get your kids to school. maybe you should’ve planned in advance and worn a condom or move outside the beltway.

          • Or

            We could just get rid of mean people like you and send them to Coeur D’Alene

          • Quoth the Raven

            What a brilliant and insightful post! Have fun walking to middle school next week!

            As an aside, why do childless people always like to call kids “brats”?

          • nom de guerre

            Speaking of brats, Sam’s has a new concept called “Brats & Brewskis” and will be repurposing an decommissioned ACPS bus and will be using it to serve grilled bratwurst sourced from Wisconsin on an artisan brötchen topped with whole grain mustard infused with organic horseradish. We also will have 10 taps featuring a variety of Oktoberfest style craft beers. The beer selection will vary according to the season.

          • haters gonna hate

          • tom smart

            you’ve have poop for what normal people have for brains. you disgust me with your half baked detritus for a thought process.

          • drax

            I nominate this for most pathetic post of the year.

        • you assumed it meant a few weeks.

        • yea, but

          The 2nd letter was the letter indicating the actual zones… and was sent “just weeks before the start of school.” I don’t even agree with the parents who seem to be, in my opinion, over reacting to the news, however the first letter simply stated that vouchers will be required and everyone received this, so many were still not aware that their child would not be deemed a “bus rider” with the change in routes, etc. Some people were before and still are, but many were changed.

          In other words, chill out over verbiage.

          • Novanglus

            The generic letters were sent 7 weeks in advance, but the actual letters telling parents about their own children’s situation just went out last week.

            A lot of us parents were on pins and needles wondering whether we would need to rearrange our commutes and work schedules on 2 weeks notice (it’s too late to sign up for extended day, and it’s a burden on everyone if kids need to transfer schools at the last minute because their parents can’t get them to their current schools). The old “walk zone maps” on the APS website don’t correspond to the actual policy, and the algorithm for commuting walking distance isn’t predictable, so all we could do was wait and cross our fingers. But finally, we were relieved to learn that our bus stop is in the same location and time as last year (the stop is inside the “walking distance” from school according to Google walking directions, but we live just outside it).

            APS caused a lot of unnecessary anxiety by sending out all these warnings, waiting until the last minute on specific details, all to eliminate only 12 out of 1783 stops.

        • Irked

          Letters warning that changes in school bus transportation were coming such as consolidating some bus stops were sent out, but nothing at all was said about removing people from service their neighborhoods have depended on for at least thiry years! With that kind of longevity in service, nobody suspected they’d just yank it with no due process and very little warning. Most families were NOT notified that they would be losing service until about August 21 and August 22. That is less than one month before the start of school. And families that don’t speak English in the home were completely left in the dark. If you look at the petition, in the last few days, you see a lot of Hispanic names. That’s because they are just now figuring out what’s happening to them. This is shameful and disingenous on the part of the school system and transportation office. They also cannot answer many questions parents have about how the new policy will affect them on a day-to-day basis, such as what happens with the former policy of allowing guest riders on buses with parental permission. If they aren’t ready to answer questions that the public has (i.e. FAQ’s), they have no business implementing it at this time.

    • Well….

      Those of us who were not walking back, were never notified of the potential of losing our entire bus route, which is what happened a week ago Saturday…

    • Taylor

      I read the original consultant’s report and noticed that it said that bus route changes CAN be implemented for the 2012-13 school year, HOWEVER…

      “…failure to begin implementation by January, 2012 will jeopardize successful completion in time for the start of school. Attempting implementation, particularly of the bus route restructuring on a shorter horizon will impart additional risks for failure of the plan as a whole.”

      Hmm, and look what happened! The bus route restructuring was implemented a few weeks prior to the start of school, and chaos ensued. So many parts of this “plan” were poorly thought out, and while there may be some merits to it, there are way too many holes and problems right now.

      The School Board needs to see the writing on the wall, and scrap this thing until some of the serious safety problems are addressed.

      • Anon

        Ummmm….you really think that someone at APS woke up in July 2012 and started implementing the new routes then? Highly doubtful. Neither you nor I know whether it was started by January 2012 but surely it wasn’t started in July.

        • Parent

          Any effective organization knows that part of implementation is communication and coordination with stakeholders. That should have occurred starting in January, with specifics shared in the spring. It didn’t happen, and this effort is a failure.

          • Novanglus

            This is right on point. Starting to enforce an existing policy is fine, but APS caused their own problems by waiting until the last minute to explain how it impacts people. If they had announced specific route changes in the spring, when there’s still time to sign up for extended day or transfer to a different school, there’d have been no problem.

            Expecting parents to walk their young kids to school at 9 and home at 3:30, on two weeks notice, means they suddenly can’t work a full day.

      • Irked

        The school board has so much as to issue a public statement of apology…they are ridiculous, useless, and shameful.

  • Cripes

    So as previously surmised, this is about a small group of vocal “me firsters” causing a big to-do about nothing. If it’s a legitimate complaint, fine, you’ll get your hearing. If you’ve been gaming the system, shut up.

    • Irked

      IT is NOT gaming the system when your child lives 1.6 miles from the school door-to-door — yes, my child leaves the house from the FRONT DOOR — not the side property line! And they have not responded to our appeal, probably because they are sticking to their faulty methodology. Children enter the school through the FRONT DOOR — not the side property line nor any other entrance (as they are all locked for safety reasons!) This is a case of my software and/or car odometer versus their faulty software (which told one woman with two middle school kids at the same school that one was a bus rider and one was a walker…there’s a well tested system for you). I am not willing to submit to this kind of last minute policy when it has been so poorly executed and minimally tested. It is riddled with issues and is extremely flawed. It has been directing kids to whatever the computer system says is a safe route whether or not there are crosswalks on multi-lane roads in the route (thus advocating jay-walking, which is illegal and unsafe — they cannot advocate this but since they did no safety studies, they have no idea what their software is directing kids to do). Many, many more people than the 250 they mention are losing access that had been based on safety and not distance, and many should be re-admitted because the methods are flawed and their software is inaccurate. Only people of limited intelligence would accept the imposition of such a flawed policy without questioning their methods, examining the facts and pointing the specific inaccuracies out to them. Over 600 people wouldn’t have signed the petition thus far if there were only a small group affected — and it is not nothing, as it will affect everyone in Arlington once the extra cars on the road jam up traffic for everyone. This is not the 1950’s — close to 80% of the kids in this county have two parents working, who do not have time take an hour out of their already crammed schedule to leisurely escort their children to school along unsafe routes. They will instead take to their cars, adding to the unsafe conditions and congestion.

    • Well….

      There’s a third option. We’ve been eligible for busing for years at our stop, and they just told us last minute that this year we wouldn’t be eligible- even though the shortest “safe” walking route is 1.2 miles to the elementary school.

  • Irked

    It is infuriating that they are referring to all of these students as “walk-backs.” First of all, in the case of our neighborhood, and as evidenced by the old walk maps (which designated some kids who were within a mile as still being in the bus zone DUE TO SAFETY CONCERNS AND NOT DISTANCE!!!), many of us were eligible to ride the bus because a waiver was made a number of years ago due to safety concerns. This is not the same as not being eligible but “walking back.” Sure, some of the cases are, indeed, “walk-backs,” but many are not. They need to own up to the fact that they went and changed policy with very little warning — leaving hundreds of parents having to scramble regarding how to get their kids to school safely and still get to work on time themselves. In addition, they have not yet answered any of our specific questions — all we get is “robo-messages” back from the school board (electronic form letters that answer nothing!) For example, the issue of guest riders is huge — many,many APS students have been able to ride home with a friend on a different but on their own with a parental note of permission in the past. Now there is conflicting info from a variety of school principals about whether or not this practice will still be accepted. Not only do kids go home with each other after school for playdates but also for study sessions. project work, childcare help from friends, high school students take different buses to get to after school internships, and kids staying with friends while their parents are out of town may also do so. So what now? The school board HAS YET TO ANSWER THIS QUESTION DEFINITELY, AS DOES THE TRANSPORTATION OFFICE. Different people have gotten different answers from school principals who have at least tried to answer it, but they have not gotten accurate information from the powers that be either, so are just trying to interpret the answer from gobs of communications they’ve received. If APS had engaged the public and had neighborhood focus groups as they should have from the start — due process — they would have realized these types of questions would arise and would be prepared to address the quickly and accurately. This is a mess, and Murphy being at the helm is ultimately accountable for it, along with the school board. For shame, all of you!

    • QuangTri1967

      Isn’t that the first lesson of adversarial diplomacy and spin control? Make up a catchy and somewhat derogatory-sounding name that you can assign to your opponents.

      The hubris in his statement dripped off my monitor and made a mess of my desk.

      • Spin Doctors

        Aren’t just a rock band from the early 90’s. At least one is alive and well on N. Quincy St.

      • Anon


      • Lizzie

        Exactly. I had never heard the term “walk-backs” until now. The pronouncements from APS are oozing with disdain for the “walk-backs” who were “abusing” or “gaming the system”, even though most of these families were simply trying to be good citizens! Most of them had their kids walking to the closest bus stop because it made more sense than driving them, and APS and the county claimed that it wanted people out of their cars and onto public transportation! I remember a middle school PTA meeting in which parents were urged to use the bus instead of driving, since the dropoff area in the morning was so congested and dangerous. Walking was never a serious option for us, as the roads to be crossed were not safe and the distance (which was over 1.5 miles if you measured it to the school itself and not the property line) was unreasonable for my 6th grader with severe distractibility issues — she would not have made it there! And yes, I’m a single working mom, and I had no flexibility about when I arrived at work, so walking them there and back was not an option.

        My kids are older now and they walk to high school, but the demonizing of those who used the bus service from near the edges of the walk zone is really upsetting me. There is no excuse for condemning Arlingtonians who were simply choosing to use available public transportation. I’m getting really sick of this.

    • NoVapologist

      Statistical studies have shown Arlington to be one of the safest walking communities in th nation. Moreover, thousands of kids have been walking to school in Arlington without a rash of pedestrian deaths. Feel free to be angry about the short notice, but get over the “safety” straw man.

      • drax

        It’s not a straw man. Some walking routes are unsafe. Not all, but some.

      • there are lies, damned lies, and then there’s statistics. I have seen how some people drive. Propaganda er “expert opinion” does not allay my concerns.

  • F

    Again, APS gets a failing grade. Transportation Director Matthews and Superintendent Murphy need to re-read the transportation consultants report, which had 9 recommendations– none of which were to eliminate students from bus routes. In fact, the report clearly states the problem: “The bell spacing is simply too tight to allow the most efficient bus routing and service. The buses are running out of time, not out of seats.”

    So, the question needs to be asked– why then are students being denied seats on buses? Ask Transportation Director Matthews how many bus stops have been moved, which have to be more than 12.

    Also, APS focuses on walkbacks– which is not the issue at hand. The problem that parents are outraged about is that in many cases, students that were bused to school last year via an assigned stop (which is does not happen with walkbacks) are no longer eligible for busing. The changes affect lots of students who were bused within the 1 mile or 1.5 mile radius for safety concerns– including my child. My appeal is forthcoming.

    If safety is APS’ first priority, why then the deliberate ignorance of students having to cross major arteries without lights and crossing guards?!?

    • dumpbox

      Dr. Murphy does not listen to any recommendations except his own. If you look at his record you will see that he does what he originally wanted regardless of the expert advice we paid for. His goal is to turn APS into a mini Fairfax system (where he came from and never had any experience pertaining to supervising anything other than buildings.) He is gutting the school system. The experienced teachers and administrators are FLOODING out of APS. Not to mention the Transportation staff – coincidence? We are left with their young, inexperienced replacements that don’t push back against Murphy’s harmful agendas. In 5-10 years our great school system will be mediocre at best.

  • John Fontain

    “While some appeals are focused on bus stops that were moved or eliminated, the majority of appeals are due to the elimination of ‘walk backs.’”

    Too funny. Arlington parents go berserk claiming their “rightful” bus stops were taken away when the reality is that their kids were walking AWAY from school to get to incorrect bus stops instead of just walking TOWARDS school to get to school. Truely classic Arlington parents.

    • Not at my bus stop.

      Children walked toward the bus stop from 1-3 blocks TOWARD school and then took a bus another .9miles to the local elementary school.

      • dk (not DK)

        Same situation here.

  • Kenny Powers

    I’m all for getting kids to walk to school if they live “nearby.” At the middle school and high school level, APS could extend the definition of “nearby.” But having very young grade school children (5-11 years old) walk a mile to school, across very busy roads without permanent crossing guards or even stationed safety patrols is asking for trouble. Arlington in 2012 is not Mayberry RFD in the 1950s, especially when you consider recent Arlington Now headlines of unrelated incidents, “Man Flashed Boy in W-L Parking Garage,” “Indecent Exposure Suspect on the Loose, May be Repeat Offender,” and, “Police on the Lookout for W&OD Trail Flasher.” Families with a stay at home parent can organize walking groups, but two working parents are failed by this asinine decision, even as buses will drive right past their kids who are walking to school. As for added cost of another bus and driver, Arlington is in top 5 wealthiest counties in the U.S and W&L is getting a AstroTurf upgrade to the tune of $1M+. This is not about saving money – it’s about priorities. The Superintendent has misguided priorities and should be sent packing. Why is our elected school board on the sidelines?

    • John Fontain

      “Indecent Exposure Suspect on the Loose”

      This could happen a block from school just as easily as it could happen a mile from school. Using your logic, no child, not even one who lives a block from school, should walk because someone may flash him during his walk.

      “two working parents are failed by this asinine decision”

      The bus system does not exist to make your commute to work easier.

      • Kenny Powers

        re: John Fontain: No…the bus system exists to keep my child safe to/from school; forcing a kid as young as six to walk a mile and cross Military road w/no patrols and no crossing guard is asinine. And yes, APS botched the roll out and is less than honest about the reasons behind this decision (seats will still be empty on buses and this county can afford 1-2 more drivers and buses assuming they are really needed (not clear on that point, might just need better mapping). Again, it’s all about priorities and this is not in my child’s best interest – nor many others.

        Count your blessings this does not impact you or that you have options. Others don’t,so perhaps you should just go sit in a corner somewhere instead of firing off such a smug response.

        • John Fontain

          “forcing a kid as young as six to walk a mile and cross Military road w/no patrols and no crossing guard is asinine.”

          No one is forcing your child to do that. You can drive your child or walk with your child so they don’t have to cross Military Road alone.

          • drax

            You know what he means, John.

          • Irked

            I don’t have time to walk 30 minutes each way with may kid per day, taking one hour out of my already hectic commute. I will be driving to two schools twice a day — that’s four vehicle trips day just from my one household. Multiply that by the hundreds of others who are going to do this, and you have pollution central and traffic congestion on your hands. Arlington IS NOT GREEN.

          • John,
            Do you really want more parents driving their children to /from school and clogging up the roads during rush hour? Seems to me this isn’t in your best interest or anyone elses either.

      • Ummm

        By your logic it’s 15 times as likely to happen to the kid that walks 15 blocks to school, so it would be 15 times less safe. Let’s play the odds.

        • John Fontain

          Sorry, but “just as easily” for two trips of differing lengths does not equal “same odds” on a block per block basis. Good effort at deliberate incomprehension though!

    • “elected school board”

      Until someone opposes them, they really won’t care what the local citizens say.

      • Kim Arl Un

        Election DISTRICTS for School Board and for County Board and every seat up for election at the same time would help dilute the North Korean-style elections in this county.

        • Sounds good here.


        • The Ghost of Sam


        • drax

          Comparing our democracy to N. Korea completely destroys your credibility.

          • Josh S


          • Something

            About signing pledges of Party Loyalty in order to get a ballot smacks of a different form of government.

          • drax

            You don’t have to sign a pledge of party loyalty to get on the ballot. You can get on the ballot by getting some signatures and filing some papers.

            You do have to sign one to get on the ballot with that party’s label. Are you somehow under the impression that this doesn’t make perfect sense? Should Republicans be allowed to get on the ballot as Democrats or vice versa? Please stop this nonsense.

          • if voting changed anything it would be illegal.

          • No labels for school board

            Um, there is no party label for the school board, which is my whole point.

            It’s asinine to make people sign a pledge for a “non-partisan” position.

          • drax

            It’s not asinine at all.

            If you want to call yourself a Dem, you have to sign a pledge. Don’t want to sign? Don’t.

            The voters will decide what to do about it.

  • Not a walk back issue

    Not a walk back issue for us. We have been told we are walkers now even though my child has to walk right through a former and current bus stop to get to school. The bus stop is 1.5 miles. We are 1.8 miles and have filed an appeal.

  • Old Curmudgeon

    Unfortunately, this is just another example of the “new” superintendent running roughshod over the community and the school board. The process that has gotten us to this point is exactly the opposite of “the Arlington Way” and the school board did not have the guts to rein in the superintendent.

    While the new policy may be the best for APS (I express no opinion on the merits as neither I nor most of the readers of this blog have enough facts to judge) the policy should be put on hold by the school board until it is vetted in the Arlington Way. This means: go back to the same rules that were in effect at the start of last school year and plan to implement the new policy (whatever that turns out to be) at the start of next semester or next year.

    If there had been appropriate debate and public input, the controversy would now be minor and the issues that have made many Arlingtonians unhappy would have been resolved. It is the responsibility of the school board to ensure that this debate occurs.

    It has been said that “you are what you were” and the superintendent was a PE teacher so he is used to dictating his policies. Had he been a science or humanities teacher, he probably would have learned the value of collaborative decision making. But unless the school board makes him stop on this decision until it is properly vetted, then there will be no reason for him to consider the Arlington Way when he wants to make major policy changes in the future.

    I am afraid that the school board will fail to step up and supervise the superintendent and it is too late for the public to affect the upcoming election of school board members so, unless the board does reclaim its rightful position as the policy setters for APS, the only way for the public to show its collective displeasure is with the other school issue at the voting booth.

    We all know that the school bond will pass. However, if the margin of passage is reduced by ten or fifteen percent over prior bonds, it would send a strong signal to the board that rubber stamping policies that have been rushed through at the last minute without public input will not be approved by the citizens of Arlington.

    Since our elected representatives appear to be unable to supervise their employee, I am going to signal my concern at the ballot box. I hope that I am wrong and the board takes positive action. If so, I will join what will no doubt be a majority of Arlingtonians and will vote for the school bond. But the school board’s reaction to this current controversy will determine how I will cast my vote.

    • Cripes

      “If there had been appropriate debate and public input, the controversy would now be minor and the issues that have made many Arlingtonians unhappy would have been resolved.” No it wouldn’t. You’d still have the same handful of parents bitching that this impacts their daily lives and demanding that their children be accommodated despite the fact that there are hundreds of other families within the same walk zones who deal with getting their kids to school every day without any sort of special treatment. The idea that the school owes free transportation to a child within walking distance of school is pure hubris and nothing more.

      • yep yeppers

        We’ll see how you feel about a so-called handful of parents when they all end up driving the kids and adding to a.m.rush hour traffic.

        • John Fontain

          I’ll bet the forecasted traffic calamities are going to be about as bad as the disaster that resulted from the clocks turning over to 12:01 am on Y2K.

          • drax

            The Y2K calamity didn’t happen BECAUSE of the fear it would happen. It caused people to fix the problem, in advance.

          • John Fontain

            You still think planes would have fallen from the sky and traffic lights would have stopped working? Wow.

          • y2k was just an operation to get the ignorant masses to install spyware onto their computers.

          • Josh S

            Why wouldn’t the same logic apply here, then?

            The point being (and I absolutely hate agreeing with anything JF says) is that predicted disasters rarely turn out that way. Especially when those predicting are emotionally attached to the situation they are describing.

          • John Fontain

            ” I absolutely hate agreeing with anything JF says”

            Very nice, hi five!

          • drax

            And I’m saying that sometimes the reason they don’t turn out that way is because people do something to prevent them, and that part of the reason they do something is because of the predictions of doom.

            No, I’m not saying it planes would have fallen from the sky. It was never that bad.

          • Lalala

            Not many people are forecasting traffic calamities — just traffic congestion, which WILL happen, because it already was last year before this ridiculous policy. I invite you to stand along N. Stuart St. by Taylor Elementary on a school day at 8:50 a.m. Or join us at release time, about 3:45 p.m. and watch the 300 or so cars trying to squish along the narrow street and/or find parking in no more than 30 spots, which are mostly taken by staff. Or hang out at those same times by N. Military Rd and 26t Rd. N. where the commuters will back up there. By eliminating public transportation, which school buses are, the school system is propelling a few hundred additional vehicle trips per day onto Arlington streets.

      • Really?

        I’d be curious how many of the elementary school children are truly required to walk more than 3/4 mile to their schools. Based on my review of every “walk” map before APS removed them, there were few cases where students were required to walk more than 1/2 mile. But my school is the lucky one, where we are now deemed to have no major streets to cross in the .88 miles from home to school. Thus, we can now walk.

      • Lalala

        You’re right, Cripes…they don’t owe us anything. But they need to shut their pie holes and stop claiming this will be good for health and the environment. I personally do not have time to walk 30 minutes each way to make sure my kid gets to school safely, so I, along with the other 50 or so families who have had our bus stops yanked in our neighborhood WILL be driving. And if we find out where you live, we would be happy to spread some of our smog in front of your house on our way and cause a long back up next to your closest stop sign (and make you 15 minutes late to work), which will happen to the unsuspecting neighbors surrounding our school. Arlington County is forever touting public transportation, yet they are taking it away. Go figure.

    • Bluemontfred

      So you would harm more than 22,000 students by not voting for the bond, just because a number of privileged north Arlington parents are bitching. How big of you. The Arlington Way….please.

    • Anon

      Actually, this is an example of the new superintendent trying to enforce a policy set by the board in 2005 but, apparently, ignored by the previous superintendent.

  • Kenny Powers

    One more point to add. Parents, especially if both parents work, will end up driving their kids to school on the way to work if APS won’t let their kids take the bus. USDOT says, “American students are nearly eight times safer riding in a school bus than with their own parents and guardians in cars.”


    • 10X better for environment too

      Don’t forget that the bus is 10X more environmentally friendly, as per that very reputable source, the APS website.


    • John Fontain

      Then I suggest you buy a school bus for all the non school-related driving you do with your child accompanying you.

      • I walk

        My school-related driving will now be about 20 times the amount of my non-school related driving, being that I walk to work, and generally wouldn’t move my car from Mon-Fri.

        • John Fontain

          A “walker” complaining about walking. Classic!

          • SteamboatWillie

            A complainer complaining about complaining. Even more classic!

            And the “walker” was actually complaining about driving, so try reading the comment as often as necessary for you to comprehend it.

          • John Fontain

            The walker is going to drive because he doesn’t want to walk. In other words, a walker was complaining about walking.

          • SteamboatWillie

            If you say so. You must be a peach to live with.

          • Thanks

            Mr. Fontain is too busy trying to see how many posts he can rack up on these boards. It’s probably murphy’s code name.

    • DOT

      Sounds like the report is saying parents are bad drivers. Good thing those kids have the option of walking!

    • loose kids bouncing around without seat belts.
      the stats are that way because there are more cars on the road vs buses.
      Reminds me of when I would get nervous before I went on a plane. I’d get the ” you are less likely to crash in an airplane than a car”. I thought, Well, my chances of survival are greater in a car. And the reality is that more people transport themselves in cars. didn’t allay my fears.

      * i always play devils advocate

  • Amy

    I too shall voice my displeasure with BOTH the superintendent and the school board on November 6th. Dr. Murphy and members of the board have not been clear, honest or helpful in implementing this major change in transportation. My children are not “walk backs”. Out bus stop has been eliminated. My children need to walk on Nelly Custis and Military roads to get to school during rush hour. There is only 1 crossing guard which is only a tenth of mile from the school. These streets have intermittent sidewalks. This is simply not safe. I do not appreciate Dr. Murphy and the school board giving us the same line of BS constantly. Many Arlington parents want honest answers. I hope my many parents come out in November and vote. Not every bond issue needs to pass in Arlington… Perhaps then the superintendent and the school board will start to listen.

    • How exactly will you do that?

      There hasn’t been a bond issue in decades that hasn’t passed. There is no opposition for the School Board elections (again). The only way to voice displeasure is to go to the next school board meeting on and let Dr. Murphy 9/6 and his 5 puppets have it in person.

      • drax

        So somebody quit whining about how there is no opposition and go run for a seat. You?

        • Thanks

          I’m not a Democrat, so I wouldn’t waste my time. Independents (or any others) stand less than a 0% chance of being elected in this county. (Even though school board is a “non-partisan” election in the Commonwealth- allegedly).

          • drax

            Then stop wasting your time complaining when you do nothing about it.

            If you can’t get elected in this county, it’s because most voters don’t want you elected.

    • John Fontain

      Amy said: ” There is only 1 crossing guard which is only a tenth of mile from the school. These streets have intermittent sidewalks. This is simply not safe.”

      You think Arlington County should provide crossing guards at every single intersection in the county? Really? REALLY???

      • Kenny Powers

        No, they don’t need crossing guards at all intersections if their kids were on a bus…Kim Arl Un said “BUSY intersections..and yes, if APS sends an elementary school kid to walk across a BUSY intersection you DO need a crossing guard. If not there, where??

        JF, it’s clear you just like to be a thorn in the side in this running commentary and want to be the “know it all man” and mock those for whom this is causing a problem. There is another name for thorn, but this is a family site…

        • bluefish

          JF=Childish, petulant, misinformed — and stubborn. Great combo.

        • John Fontain

          I’ve got kids in elementary school who have to walk about a mile to get to school. We’ve been doing it for a few years without any problems. I don’t see why this is the end of the world for people.

          • Josh S

            That’s fabulous. We’re all happy for you. Now butt out. Great wisdom that parents used to teach their kids: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

          • John Fontain

            How is questioning the practicality of putting crossing guards at every intersection in the county “saying something that isn’t nice”?

          • KnowItAll

            John’s situation is perfect for him. He’s just frustrated that everybody else can’t catch up to his level of being awesome.

          • John Fontain

            Pretty much.

          • drax

            Do they walk alone or with adults? What’s the busiest street they have to cross?

  • Kim Arl Un

    Are there crossing-guards at key intersections or just adjacent to schools? At my local elementary school, there appears to be only one crossing guard in front of the school (for show), but busy intersections a few blocks away are left unattended.

    • drax

      They have lots of crossing guards in North Korea. (rolleyes)

  • JimPB

    Suggestion: Tell a vivid, engaging, factual story about the safety issues when walking to and from school under the busing policy. How? Make a video of the walking route. A picture is worth a thousand words, especially a torrent of angry words.

  • TuesdaysChild

    I am sure Jay will pay for a bus to the Artisphere.

  • I “practiced” walking to school with my kids today (having previously been eligible for bus service per APS – not a “walkback”). When we got to the crosswalk at Military Road, we waited until cars stopped going both directions, and began to cross. Well along came a car that swerved to the right – around the line of stopped cars – to nearly run over me and my 2 kids (thankfully we were only half-way across the road at that time). THIS is what parents are upset about. And this was at 4:00 in the afternoon on a lazy August day (very little traffic). Imagine what this will look like at 8:40 in the morning after Labor Day. This is about PUBLIC SAFETY people….deciding bus eligibility based solely on distance, without regard for traffic patterns or public safety – is ridiculous.

    • John Fontain

      I trust that when you walk them to school on the first day, you’ll fulfill your parental duty to help them cross that intersection safely. Come on, you can do it!

      • Nah

        We’ll drive them instead, hope you’re sitting behind me when the streets near our school stack up worse than ever. The 10 minute wait to get in to our school parking lot might be 20 now.

        • John Fontain

          ^^^Armageddon is once again predicted^^^

      • drax

        I have a feeling you don’t have kids, John.

        • bluefish

          Evidently neither children nor sense.

    • PatMustGo

      My middle schoolers and I also “practiced” walked this morning at 9am to Williamsburg. Our 1.8 mile walk as measured by a pedometer (although APS says it’s less than 1.5 miles) took almost 45 minutes, and this was without heavy backpacks and musical instruments. At the light crossing Glebe we saw one car run the red light and another waiting to make a right turn honked at us, as I guess my 11-year-old crossed the street too slowly for his taste. We dropped off our appeals at the school for the principal’s signature – I gather they haven’t been forwarded to the Transportation Dept. yet as there was a substantial stack. If my kids aren’t allowed on the bus (even though their online student information shows that they are assigned to the bus – so much for “walk backs” taking advantage of the system), I’ll be driving them. So much for “Green Arlington”.

  • beman

    i am not sure i understand the “walk back” issue. My kids bus route picks them up and takes them two neighborhoods away from school and then turns to head back to the school and passes our neighborhood.

  • JimPB

    Excellent example of why we need the ACPoliceD to mount an aggressive traffic safety campaign with no mercy for drivers who endanger.

  • arlgirl

    I think the County Board should provide a trolley for the kids who are without bus service.

  • Arlington085

    Don’t let APS fool you. Their transportation policy reads “Safety will be the primary consideration in the location of bus stops and may occasionally dictate the establishment of bus stops within one mile for elementary schools and one and one-half miles for middle and high schools.”

    This isn’t about kids sneaking onto buses. Kids for years have been riding the bus at APS’s invitation for the reasons mentioned above. This was sanctioned ridership, and yes there were always bus letters, just not always vouchers. Many of these same kids have now been uninvited because APS is changing what it considers safety in the above policy. I can hear Dr. Murphey now in his glee at discovering they could make this change – technically within policy – without any due process for parents. This is your school system ladies and gentlemen.

    • Fairfax, here I come, right back where I started from

      I think the streetcar is supposed to extend to Fairfax County. If the County Board wastes the money to build it, I hereby volunteer to buy ticket #1 for Dr. Patrick K. Murphy. A one-way ticket to the westernmost stop on the line, no return trip desired.

    • Lizzie

      How can we get rid of this guy? From the awful situation with the Williamsburg principal in 2011, to the complete lack of transparency in decisions, to nonsense like this — why is the board so blindly loyal to him? Why did they just renew his contract? He is supposed to answer to the School Board, but Abby Rafael and her buddies seem like star-struck acolytes when he walks in the room. Rumor from teacher and administrator friends is that he is despised throughout the school system. How did this happen? Why is he still here?

      • Learning cottage fiasco

        Don’t forget the learning cottage fiasco. Apparently if you call them trailers you get a reprimand from the good Dr. He is simply a disaster. Stop trying to impose major reform on one of the top public school systems in the country. Change is not always good.

        • Anon

          Facts (educational outcomes) to support the claim that Arlington is “one of the top public school systems in the country”, please?

          • NoVapologist
          • Anon

            Strike one. Taking a test is not an outcome; it’s an input. The premise behind the Newsweek stats is that studies show that generally students who take challenging courses perform better. The Newsweek stats show only one side of that coin – the input (students taking challenging courses). The question remains: Is there outcomes evidence showing that APS is a top public school system in the US?

          • HD

            Cliff Notes version: I feel like arguing about something pointless this morning.

          • darsasx

            Sorry – that is not an educational outcome. Your link refers to the Newsweek article that “ranks high schools by dividing the number of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests taken by students by the number of graduating seniors” – an educational outcome would be APS ranking in the top 100 of school systems for percentage of students that PASS AP exams, not just take them.

          • Anon

            Thank you! Someone else understands outcomes! They are important!

          • NoVapologist

            To compare AP performance across school districts and states, the College Board uses the “Equity and Excellence” index, the proportion of graduating seniors who score a 3 or higher on at least one AP exam during their high school careers. In 2011, 60.8 percent of APS graduating seniors met this standard, compared to 25.6 percent of Virginia’s graduates (third in the nation) and 18.1 percent of public school graduates nationwide.


          • Anon

            This is a reply to NoVapologist’s post below. If the College Board’s “Equity and Excellence” index is truly as you describe, then it is severely flawed. You note that it measures “the proportion of graduating seniors who score a 3 or higher on at least one AP exam during their high school careers.” That does not control for the percentage of students taking the AP test in the first place. I tried to look up the actual report on the College Board website but it appears to be limited to school district administrators. (We won’t even get into the issue of controlling for socioeconomic status at this point……)

          • Anon

            oops – NoVapologist’s post above, not below

      • Lalala

        Can we impeach him?!?!?

  • Frustrated by Process

    It is frustrating that the County continues to characterize the problem as “walk backs”. Our bus stop has more than 20 kids each year -assigned by the county- and now most, if not all, no longer have bus service. This is not a case of people “illegally” riding the bus. Rather, the County has made a decision to eliminate service but does not have the courage to state that fact. Rather, we are characterized as sneaking on the bus. I know many of us would be fine with the decisions made if the rationale was shared with the public and the actual decision-making process was transparent.

  • Rick

    How much did this video cost?

    • Priorities, people

      How much did that softball field cost? And yet, Murph says it’s not about saving money, it’s about the safety of students. Such baloney! How are 5-year-olds safer walking 0.9 miles to school across multi-lane roads without crosswalks? And to all those haters who say parents should drive their kids instead: great, like we don’t have enough morning traffic on Arlington roads…

      • Rick

        Well you shot that joke right in the leg, didn’t you

      • Novanglus

        The softball field was required by Title 9 — they need to provide equivalent facilities for baseball and softball

        • drax

          They can’t simply let girls play baseball?

  • RunRunRun

    There are 2 problems with the APS system:

    1. Distances are measured at a radius. So unless you cut through your neighbors yard, any one near the end of the radius could end up walking much further than the “prescribed” distance.

    2. Did APS consult with the local police department about safe walk zones versus just looking at distance. If my child lived less than a mile from school but had to cross the Glebe Rd near the I-395 intersection I would be concerned! Most complaints are about safe paths not distances. I would suggest that people with concerns contact the police for advice.

  • Lalala

    They cannot legally advocate routes that take kids across multi-lane roads without crosswalks. If no crosswalks are available on such roads, the child has the right to walk to where a crosswalk is available. Many have found that in order to do that, it will put them beyond the walking distance and qualify them for the bus. Dingbats! As you point out, their friggin’ computer system didn’t take this into account. Jay-walking is illegal, thus they may not advocate routes that would require jay-walking. Again, they are dingbats.

  • Why’d He Leave?

    I would sincerely like to know why the former transportation director left immediately after this debacle started. Was he pushed out because he disagreed with Mr. Murphy? Did he quit because he could not stand behind these decisions? It’s hard to believe the timing was coincidental.

    • Rumor

      Has it, that he was nearing retirement, but decided to speed it up because he was strongly opposed to the crap that the good Dr. was about to impose on the APS customers. He’s surely not the first long-time employee to exit stage right since the good Dr. took over a few years back.

      • Dr. Dippy

        There are lots of really good district administrators who can’t stand to work for the spin master, who seems intent on “reforming” one of the best school districts in America. I wish the school board would wake up to it.

        • Sadly

          It seems like the School Board is drinking the Kool-Aid.

        • Anon

          Outcomes evidence that Arlington is “one of the best school districts in America”, please?

    • Astoria442

      rumor has it he’s the one FAILED to implement and coordinate all the changes in a timely fashion which led to this crap and was advised to retire

    • dumpbox

      Dr. Myrphy does not listen to any recommendations except his own. If you look at his record you will see that he does what he originally wanted regardless of the expert advice we paid for. His goal is to turn APS into a mini Fairfax system (where he came from and never had any experience pertaining to supervising anything other than buildings.) He is gutting the school system. The experienced teachers and administrators are FLOODING out of APS. We are left with their young, inexperienced replacements that don’t push back against Murphy’s harmful agendas. In 5-10 years our great school system will be mediocre at best.

      • Learning cottage fiasco


        Let’s send him to one of our Sister Cities on an exchange program. Maybe he’ll fall in love with Aachen, Germany, Reims, France, San Miguel, El Salvador, Coyoacán, Mexico or Ivano Frankivsk, Ukraine , and never return.

  • APS is revising history

    This whole “walk back” thing is absurd. APS is revising history to fit their current needs. Arlington parents can read a Walk Zone map. Everyone at our school understood that if they lived inside the walk zone, they would not have bus service, but if they lived outside the walk zone — even if they were less than one mile from school — they would have it. Why? Because the walk zone was established based on safety concerns and took into consideration the reasonable amount of traffic that the school itself could handle.

    Plenty of people looked at the Walk Zone map over the summer, noticed that it had NOT CHANGED and reasonably assumed their bus service would continue. There was never a discussion about changing the Walk Zone, and yet APS arbitrarily decided (based on a computer program) to do just that. In order to make their new “plan” work they have to claim that kids who were assigned bus service because they lived outside the Walk Zone were actually “walk backs.” When my child gets on the bus that comes two doors down from my home, he isn’t walking back. He is simply taking the safest route — as prescribed to him by APS — to school. We received a letter EVERY year from APS telling us when and where to board the bus. For goodness sake, if APS didn’t approve of my son riding the bus for the last five years, they wouldn’t have trained him to be a Bus Patrol for the 2012 – 2013 school year!! Clearly, APS has not thought through this “plan,” and when the flaws become apparent, they choose to demonize the kids instead of taking responsibility for their own ineptitude.

    If this is how Dr. Murphy and our School Board handle changes to the walk zones, one can only imagine how effective they will be with the upcoming boundary changes!!

    • Ooooooh. Can’t wait for that.

      Redistricting (or the valiant failed effort to redistrict) was a debacle under a generally competent superintendent. Under Doc Murph, it’s going to be an unmitigated disaster. Think Hindenburg, Titanic, Washington Redskins for the last decade all rolled into one.

      BUT, no doubt the communication will be very creative- that is one thing that the SPIN Dr. can do. It’ll probably be framed in the guise of efficiency and effectiveness, and then they’ll slam it all together at the last second, screw it all up, and we’ll end up needing a bunch more trailers, er uh Learning Cottages. (HINT: Don’t forget that they’ll need to redo the transportation plan).

      • drax

        There is no such thing as easy redistricting. It will be a disaster no matter who does it or how.

    • Arlington085

      This, exactly.

    • AVer

      If you go to this link, you’ll see that APS is not changing the walk zones; they’re enforcing the existing policy. http://www.apsva.us/cms/lib2/VA01000586/Centricity/Shared/School%20Board%20Policies/50-OperFacEquip/50-5-transportation.pdf

      From the 2005 document: “Safe transportation to school will be provided at public expense to transport students pre-k through grade 12 living beyond a one mile walking distance from elementary schools and a one and one-half mile walking distance from middle and high schools (property line to property line).”

      As stated in the article, the vast majority of the children affected by the letters have parents that are currently violating existing policies. Perhaps this is why there are only 100 appeals despite all the noise parents are making.

      • Arlington085

        And if you read the rest of that same paragraph you’ll see that ….”Safety will be the primary consideration in the location of bus stops and may occasionally dictate the establishment of bus stops within one mile for elementary schools and one and one-half miles for middle and high schools.”

        Parents were not violating – APS has long provided bus stops near or within the radius for safety reasons. We always get a letter to our address (well within the radius) with the bus route number and stop listed. They have now suddenly decided against most of these stops. Please don’t believe APS’s spin on this – many, many people are affected who were not violating the policies.

        • AVer

          Are they appealing? Only 100 appeals does not suggest many people are affected. I agree that some children have been incorrectly labeled as walkers–some of them have posted here. I hope APS fixes those quickly. It also appears that some people within the walk zone still have busing–those are probably the stops created by the passage you cited.

          As for the stops eliminated, the only number I’ve seen comes from APS–12. Does someone have evidence that more have been eliminated?

          • Arlington085

            I don’t know anyone in the radius who is appealing, on what grounds? According to the policy APS can giveth, and apparently APS can taketh away. Just don’t characterize the parents as “violaters” is all, when APS’s own policy allowed for their bus use. The appealers I know are appealing to question the GPS calculation, not to reinstate stops within the radius.

            Only 12 stops may have been taken away in total, but complaints suggest that many more kids were taken away from stops that still exist in the same or a new to serve others. Very curious – someone should do a registry for affected families so they can be counted.

          • Lalala

            We have just that sort of “registry” going at http://www.facebook.com/APSbusing. According to that, over 20 schools have been affected counter to the school system’s “official” position claiming that only five schools have been affected. I haven’t seen such glaring disinformation since the former USSR tried to claim that Breshnev was still alive three years after he’d died.

          • MommyDearest

            I don’t think anyone has evidence that APS is lying about the 12 stops. But that number is only part of the story. There are also bus stops that have been moved, and children who used to ride that bus no long eligible to ride it, and there are bus stops that, at least according to posters, are still in the exact same place, yet the kids were not given vouchers. APS knows how many kids they sent bus passes to, but they keep claiming they don’t know how many kids rode the bus last year. Really? They paid all that money for some consultant to do a study, and the consultant didn’t spend some time quantifying the number of students on the buses? Also, I don’t think we should read too much into the 100 appeals. I know several neighborhoods who have submitted an appeal on behalf of 10-20 kids.

          • PatMustGo

            Only 100 appeals have been received by the Transportation Dept. because they must first go to the school principal and be signed off. Williamsburg MS this morning had a stack of appeals in the front office waiting to be sent to the Transportation Dept.

      • Inaccurate

        We’re within a mile — .9 or so, (as is everyone on our side of our school’s district). We’ve always gotten a letter saying we were eligible to ride the bus until this year.

  • CW

    It seems like a lot of blanket statements are being made and that the entire K through 12 system is being spoken of when obviously a 2nd grader is very different from a high schooler. I find both the idea that a 7 year old can walk a mile through traffic and the idea that a 15 year old cannot to be equally ridiculous. I wonder if the bulk of complaining, concerned parents are those of the younger children? This would make more sense to me. Therefore, if the system really, truly is at its limit, i would wonder if the resources could be reallocated to prioritize the safety of the younger, more vulnerable children?

    • Nice idea!

      This makes sense to me!

    • John Fontain

      Logic doesn’t work with most of the complaining parents. Didn’t you read the complaint from the parent of the high school senior the other day? Even though the kid is a year away from independent living and lots of walking in college, the parent thinks it is totally unfair for his/her almost adult child to walk more than a mile to school.

      • drax

        At least you’re saying “most” instead of all. That’s progress.

        • John Fontain

          Thank you for your kind words and approval. I’m working hard to do anything I can to meet your approval and make you happy.

          • drax

            No, you’re just getting a little bit smarter thanks to me and some other posters here. But only a little bit.

      • CW

        That kid’s going to do a lot more than walking in college. It’s always the sheltered kids who go crazy the second they step onto campus.

    • Mine

      are 7 and one entering K next year. So yes, I’m complaining a lot, but my kids are simply too young to walk a quite unsafe route.

  • Arlington085

    Three miles a day for a younger highschooler is still iffy, since it’s been proven here that start times mean that these kids will be walking in the dark on winter mornings, and they have to carry many more supplies.

    I don’t know many (any?) adults that commute by walking 3 miles a day. Why do we seem to think that makes sense for teenagers? Less than a mile seems more reasonable, if there are good pedestrian walk-ways.

    • Anon

      Unless your child is going to 0 period (I’m not kidding; there is such a thing), he or she is not going to be walking in the dark. Check the school start times and the sunrise/sunset calendars. (Oh, and, since the buses don’t arrive in time for 0 period anyway, students who arrive for that time period are not adversely affected by enforcing the 2005 policy.)

      • Lizzie

        Not true. To get to Williamsburg Middle School by the 7:40 bell, kids would have to leave home from this neighborhood at about 6:45. Sunrise in mid-winter is around 7:30 am.

        With the adjustment of Daylight savings time, there are also a few weeks at the beginning and end of DST where it would be dark during the entire trip to school.

      • drax

        Um, Anon, I think you forgot to set your clock back one hour in the fall. Remember, spring forward, fall back.

        • Anon

          Um, drax, I think you (and Lizzie) forgot to read the original post in this string … which referred to high school, not middle school. Remember, my post followed that one, not Lizzie’s.

          • Lizzie

            So it’s okay for 6th graders to walk 1 1/2 miles in the dark?

            The walk distances make no distinction between 6th graders and 12th graders.

            Sunrise on November 2 is 7:37 am.

          • Anon

            Since you asked about middle school students…..I think that depends on the route and the area. In some areas, it may be okay; in others not. That’s why, why our children (in a walk zone to middle school) went to middle school and would have had to walk in an area we thought potentially dangerous we…….arranged a car pool, instead of whining that we had to have a bus.

  • househoor

    We live 0.75 miles from our Elem School and never lost our bus route/privileges, etc. We got a ‘bus’ letter—not a walker letter.

    I was surprised since many of my neighbors walk to school and we are inside the 1-1.5 mile zone.

  • ACVer

    I have no idea what the APS folks are referring to when suggesting that the number of people protesting are not affected. I signed the petition as our bus stop is still in the system, yet our letter said we are walkers. We are not “walk-backers”. We have to walk in the direction of school to get to the bus stop. Finally, previous walk maps did not have our home in the “walk” zone”. How were we to even guess that we would not receive bus service?

    • AVer

      See my post above. Those maps were from 1997 and did not reflect current policy. Should APS have updated them in 15 years? Absolutely. But that does not change the fact that most parents were violating current policy and therefore “not affected.” Not that it really matters. The article says that bus drivers will pick up all kids at the stop so you should continue to drop the kiddos off at there instead of the school.

      • ACVer

        Our principal thinks the bus driver will not let kids on without a voucher.

        • drax

          Yeah, what’s the point of the voucher otherwise?

          What will happen is they’ll pick the kid up and then call the parents and tell them to stop sending him/her to the bus. Can’t imagine what happens if they keep doing it though.

          • AVer

            The parents will say that they told junior to walk to school. They can’t help it if he goes to the bus stop with this friends! It sounds like walk backs can continue. They’ll never leave a child behind.

      • Arlington085

        See my post above, under yours. Parents were not violating policy, since APS policy admits they will locate extra stops within the radius at their discretion; these were legit, scheduled stops that these kids were expected to use. Many of these stops have now been cancelled.

  • Spin, spin, spin

    It’s completely disingenuous to claim that APS has no idea who takes the bus. Seriously? Every school principal knows who rides buses to his/her school. How about asking them?? And this, oh no, it’s all for the sake of the child response is such typical nonsense. I can’t believe anyone really buys it. Where is the school board in this matter? Who do imagine they represent? Families and students? or Murphy?

    • Lizzie

      I vaguely remember filling out some form saying which bus they rode in each direction. It may have been for our particular schools, but surely that information was not that difficult to obtain.

  • bluefish

    Murphy needs to be removed from his post — disgraceful performance.

    • Yep


  • jaynon

    How about you people take some responsibility for the kids YOU choose to have? Don’t like the schools rules,then move to another county…or why don’t you all band together and fund your own bus since I shouldn’t have to incur the costs for YOUR kids. Or try carpooling, it worked in the 80’s.

    • Jackfan

      No kidding. If these whiners spent one iota of the time organizing walks and carpools that they did yelling at people with differing opinions on this board – this issue would be close to being resolved. I feel so sorry for teachers and administrators in the APS having to deal with this lot of entitled, ‘me-first’ crybabies. Now I’ll battan down and prepare for the lazy parent brigade to bash me…

      • drax

        Do you have kids, Jackfan? What age? Walk, bus or drive? How far?

      • life is going to hit you hard and I hope you complain about it on here.

      • bluefish

        Within a day of receiving our letter, we had organized the plan to provide safe tranport back and forth. No need to assume that because folks are outraged that they are not doing just as you suggest — common sense, no? But one can walk and chew gum at the same time — Organize the rides and protest this insane plan. I can assure you that plenty of teachers and administrators dislike this move just as much as we do — Unfortunately, they are hesitant to do so for reasons having to do with the atmosphere this fellow has created. We’re not crybabies at my house — we work hard, we expect our son to do well in school, and have contributed to his school for 16 years now. It’s not pleasant to buck up against these authorities and perfectly legitimate for the whiners as you call us to want to read how others are reacting to all this. And to look for some moral support and advice. It’s really disturbing also to read so many vile comments about our children and young people. And to make so many assumptions based on sheer venom.

    • drax

      Being involved in school policies IS taking responsibility, genius. If parents just sat back and did whatever the schools wanted, our schools would suck.

      • SteamboatWillie

        Jaynon’s post:

        Don’t like the rules? Move!


        I shouldn’t pay for something that doesn’t benefit me.

        I’ll keep that in mind when my house isn’t on fire or I’m not playing soccer on one of the municipal fields or not using one of the county-funded dog parks or not riding and ART bus.


        • Quoth the Raven

          Hey, this is awesome- I didn’t know that I didn’t have to pay for the stuff I don’t use!

          • CW

            I’ve heard that my Iraq War check is in the mail, looking forward to receiving it…

    • ahh yes another hater hating that they must pay for the conditioning centers. I don’t think you would like the coming generations if they weren’t conditioned to current societal standards.

  • Taylor

    I’m puzzled by the repeated comments that “we need to know who is on the bus.”

    That reminds me of the “security” systems in my federal office building, where employees must swipe their ID’s when entering or leaving the building. Ostensibly it’s for “safety,” but of course it’s just bureaucratic nanny-watching.

    Same thing with the buses. Is there really a need for administrators to know exactly who’s on every bus on any given day, or is this simply a justification for requiring that kids carry those bus vouchers?

    And I resent Dr. Murphy vilifying kids he now terms as “walk-backs.” Even though we’re not one of those families, it makes sense for kids to simply take the safest route to school, whether that’s walking, bus, etc.

    • BluemontFred

      In the event of a bus being late or an emergency, the school system needs to notify parents. How is the school system supposed to notify parents If little Johnny or Sue got on a bus they weren’t assigned to. Parents would go nuts. The school system needs to know who is on every bus.

      • Novanglus

        Simple: they send an email to the parents’ listserv saying “Bus 247 is running late — expect a 30 minute delay.” The parents whose kids aren’t on bus 247 will just ignore the email, and the affected parents will know not to worry.

        • Whitney Wilson

          That’s how it works now at Key School, and it seems to be pretty effective.

      • Lizzie

        I can’t remember which school it was, but I used to fill out a form which said which buses my kids would normally ride. Is it really that hard to collect that information?

        Also, if buses don’t come, you call the transportation department, and they tell you whether it will be there soon or not. Again, it’s not that big a deal.

    • ” Ostensibly it’s for “safety,” but of course it’s just bureaucratic nanny-watching. ”
      don’t ya know we are really prisoners!
      It creates jobs

    • PatMustGo

      They DID know who was on what bus. The online student information center shows what bus each of my kids rode last year. But of course my kids were illegal “walk backs” who shouldn’t have been on the bus in the first place…..BS!

  • Narlington

    All this is for busing, I can’t wait till the school board changes the school boundary lines. That’s next you know, I can’t wait.

    • Boundry Changes will NEVER happen

      …in Arlington – North Arl parents go C-R-A-Z-Y whenever boundry changes are even mentioned.

      • NoVapologist


        • Boundry Changes will NEVER happen

          Thanks – boundary

  • Drunk_IrishChick

    Back in my day kids would have to walk 3 miles in the snow to school down country roads! I wish I had nice sidewalks then

    • Arlingtoon

      And it was uphill in both directions!

  • Anon

    I propose that APS close the planetarium and use the operating costs to buy a new bus. Seriously, though, this whole situation illustrates what most people with common sense already know…you can’t have everything; choices must be made. Should APS spend its money on teachers, technology (much of which is underutilized), planetarium or buses?

    • Quoth the Raven

      Don’t hate the planetarium!!! I think you’re confused; you meant to write “Artisphere”.

      • Anon

        If it’s any consolation, I feel the same way about the Artisphere as I do about the planetarium. Actually, I hate neither….but that doesn’t mean that they should be funded. It’s all about choices and where the money should be spent.

        • Quoth the Raven

          Certainly agree with that.

      • drax

        Well, no, the Planetarium is run by the schools, so it’s the appropriate target. If you hate Artisphere as a waste of money when there are higher priorities, you should hate the planetarium. If you don’t, then you’re a hypocrite.

    • Deb

      A lot of the technology used in APS is completely wasted. Smartboards, for example, are a waste of money with very little educational value (and what value there is could easily be obtained with shared boards and/or other less expensive technology). I work in technology, I love technology, but it kills me to see our educational funds squandered on quickly obsolete toys that were sold by a slick-talking computer salesman.

      Better transportation to schools vs useless technology?

  • CMo

    The misinformation campaign from APS is troubling – even moreso than the botched implementation of this program. My kids are being asked to walk 1.7 miles (1.8 if you follow the mapquest walking directions). Some of that walk is across busy streets, and some of that walk is along areas without sidewalks. That’s clearly at odds with the stated policy and yet the appeal has gone without a response. This is not a “walk-back”. My kids could do this walk, but how many of you readers walk 3.6 miles 5 days a week carrying a backpack full of books, navigating across busy streets and areas where there are no sidewalks for pedestrian safety? This is just another instance in a pattern of failures from APS – trailers (yes, they are trailers not mobile classrooms or some other catchy label) at so many schools (including newly built ones – are a disgrace given the amount of money poured into the school system each year. I don’t mind paying high taxes for good results – so get it right and produce value for the community.

    • Anon

      “I don’t mind paying high taxes for good results – so get it right and produce value for the community.”

      Agreed. But, more bus stops and more buses are neither “good results” nor “value.” The school system needs to drive educational outcomes…not the number of students on buses.

      • Results/Value

        Children who are maimed or worse on a long trek to school crossing several busy streets would be neither a good result nor value for APS. This is penny wise and pound foolish.

        • anon

          This is the kind of silly argument that makes it difficult to have intelligent discourse. The school system – any school system – is in the business of education, not transportation. Transportation is an additional service that school systems typically (but are not required to) provide to some students.

          • drax

            Of course they’re in the business of transportation.

          • Anon

            So…a company that has an HR department is in the business of human resources? Nope. The HR department is there only to support whatever the business does …government contractor, widget maker, whatever.

      • Lalala

        Truancy and sleep deprivation will go up with this policy, and they are removing public transportation and propelling people into their vehicles. Keeping a quick, safe route to school for the kids IS an investment towards educational outcomes. In fact, APS delayed the high school start time by 45 minutes based on studies on adolescent sleep patterns that show performance and retention go way up with a later school start time (allowing more sleep in the morning, when adolescents need it). Many high school students at the 1.5 mark will now have to leave their homes 45 minutes earlier in order to make it to school on time. THIS ERASES THEIR HIGHLY TOUTED EDUCATIONAL BENEFIT OF LATER START TIMES! IT IS RELATED TO EDUCATIONAL OUTCOMES! SO IS GETTING TO SCHOOL SAFELY! YOU CAN”T LEARN IF YOU GET SMOOSHED BY A CAR!


    We received a walk letter. It isn’t safe for my child to walk. Appeal made. Bus assigned. But even if it wasn’t assigned, we would adjust (and continue our appeal).
    The gripers aren’t getting bus service for their little baby Jesus. So they complain in the most public forum they can. They complain about the school board, the superintendent, the transportation director, etc.
    some thoughts (directed to gripers): does money grow on trees?
    do you really think the school system would deliberately put your little baby Jesus in harms way? Have you put on your big girl/big boy clothes and worked with the school in a grown-up way? Would you be complaining about this if you got your transportation but many other people were milking the system at a tremendous drain to school resources? have you taken a look to see what some of the things the school system faces and will potentially face if they can’t minimize expenses? Do you see the bigger picture? You aren’t being targeted-stop taking it personally. get off your griping force and be a change for good.

    • Deb

      So you got a walk letter, you complained, and you got a waiver. And now you are criticizing other people for complaining?

      • PAMELA F.

        yep…would even if we didn’t get waiver. The school system is NOT targeting my child-or yours!! They are trying to make a horribly inefficient system more efficient. there will be hiccups, of course!! Work to get them resolved. Don’t gripe about how awful this is.

        • anon


        • drax

          But you are criticizing people for complaining. After you complained.

          If they deserve a waiver, they have to complain to get it. Just like you did.

          It’ll sink in.

          • Pat F

            No. I didn’t complain. I filed an appeal. Huge difference.

    • I’ve called APS Transportation 4 times

      asking a simple question. They don’t return calls.
      So I’m not sure what you’d like me to do next.

      My question is: What does APS define as the safe walk route for my child? There are about 36 route permutations that we could use to get my kid the .9-1.2 miles to her school. I’m not sure what I’m appealing, a) that I’m outside the walk zone, or b) that the safe route isn’t safe, because I can’t get a return call. I’ve been trying to find out for two weeks now and am always promised a return call the next day, but nothing.

      • Rephrase

        Why don’t you ask them the question in a less confrontational manner? The way you state it on here is probably causing it to be run by the lawyers, who are advising them not to answer your specific question. What does it matter what the school defines “as the safe walk route for my child?” It’s your child; you can’t figure out the best way for her to walk to school?

        • Welll

          You cannot fill out the appeal form without knowing whether you are appealing that you live outside the “safe walk zone” or not. I am simply trying to understand what route they are consdiering since I’m at .92 miles as the crow flies, and the shortest route on streets is just a mile. The “safe” route I would use is 1.2 miles, which would mean filling out the form differently.

          You cannot fill out an appeal form if you’re not sure what you’re appealing. I’ve had several conversations with a very pleasant woman at the call center. Each time, she has promised a follow-up phone call the next day, and I have yet to receive any follow-up to any of the calls.

  • Kenny Powers

    Pamela F:

    A: As you gripe here at fellow parents, why assume other “gripers” are not also going to APS directly like you did when you too decided “It isn’t safe for my child to walk?”

    B: you make the point others do, you never should have been made to walk if it was unsafe — why did APS start out asking your kid to do something unsafe?

    C: Why so pissy, Missy?

  • Methodology Question

    My biggest gripe at this point is the methodology for figuring out the walk zones. A property-line to property line straight line calculation is overly simplistic and doesn’t take into account the fact that the actual distance kids will have to travel will vary widely.

  • Lalala

    Not to mention, there are multiple property lines but only one main entrance. Door-to-door is the only logical and sound measurement — a HUGE flaw in their faulty policy — precisely why it needed to be reviewed and vetted by focus groups before being implemented! If they switch to a door-to-door measurement, I guarantee at least a few bus stops will have to be reinstated, which is precisely why they are ignoring us and giving us the silent treatment. They know they are wrong and hope their cone of silence will outlast our rage.

    • Yorktown

      Bingo! These fellows are definitely hoping to weather this storm — a storm of their own creation. It astonishes me that this is best APS can do in terms of a Superintendent. Really?

      And the matter of the appeals forms — not being sent via snail mail, having to be printed out, not being able to fill them and submit them online is calculated and reprehensible. Anything to delay the process in the vain hope that once this thing gets rolling we’ll find we can live with it!

      Scandalous mismanagement.

  • ARLDadWhoCares

    Flawed methodology, poor communication, and excessive “spin” make this one of the worst decisions I have seen in 25 years within APS.

    Dr Murphy – Dig down deep and have the guts to say, “We’ve made a misake and we will revisit this issue, ensuring a more robust methodology. We will also provide a proper forum to request input from Arlington parents to comment on the alternatives available to solve this transportation/safety problem.”

    Arlington parents appealing the walk letter: Don’t hold your breath on the appeals process. We just heard our appeal was rejected. Forget about walking more than 1.5 miles from door-to-door and crossing busy highways as the rebuttal. Facts are not important when you are up against a flawed methodology! Guess it’s one more car to clog the already busy streets of Arlington during school drop-off and pick-up times!

  • Yorktown

    Love the flawed methodology comment! This has been such an angering and demoralizing couple of weeks — great to have a laugh. And, yeah, no kidding on the futility of the appeals — the way the thing was engineered it was clear that none of their so-called guidelines really mean a thing. Patrick Murphy is definitely he who must be obeyed — and father knows best all rolled into one. Chilling. I refuse to put us through any additional hassles at this point. Beyond the small matter of actually going to school — in, like, the real world.

    This Super is already planning his next career move and all this disruption and chaos will be given a clever phase on his burgeoning CV. I feel so proud and happy to have become a tangential part of his amazing success story.

    Here’s to hoping that once the chaos begins to really hit the streets this coming Tuesday and folks have to actually live with his imperious decrees the Board will grow a spine and remove him from this position. The fellow’s a politician and should just admit it outright — go for it, Pat, and keep your hands off any additional public school systems. We’re just not that into you.

    • Minor snafu #1

      Lost school bus full of kids. Arrives an hour late on first day. Not good APS Transportation. Of course that’s what you get for ramming through major changes last minute. Insufficient training and ensuing failures.

  • I feel for all of the parents who are just concern about their kid’s transportation. It’s really hard to battle against school decision. But there is always a solution for that. I just hope that APS would be able to weigh things out well for the benefit of the kids’ safety transportation, may it be within 1.5 miles or more. As long as they get home and go to school safely.

  • pankhuri agarwal

    i am not satiafied as i have not got my answer but as so many people have commented so much i think it can give answer to the neeedy people who need this kind of letter but i dont find my answer. so i am dissatisfied with this answer


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