New walk zones cause concern for thousands of students

Infographic by Sean Cassar.

Infographic by Sean Cassar.

Infographic by Sean Cassar.
Infographic by Sean Cassar.

By Sharon Shatananda and Breanna Shiflett

As a result of annual revisions to the Eligible Riders policy, many Tuscarora students found themselves without bus transportation at the start of the new school year, meaning they had to begin walking to and from school each day.

School Board Policy 6-21 states that any Loudoun County student who lives within one mile of their middle or high school, or within 0.8 miles of their elementary school, is no longer eligible for bus transportation. Because of the new revisions, almost 4,000 students throughout the county now have to walk to school each day.

That number is a bit lower than it could have been, however, because some Tuscarora students were exempted from walking due to the length of the school’s driveway. Tuscarora’s driveway posed a problem with the calculations, as the walking distance is usually measured from the student’s home to the property line of the school. However, THS has a 0.3 mile driveway, which was added into the distance criteria and therefore reduced the extent of the walk zone.

This has benefited many students who will continue to receive bus transportation. Sophomore Rachel Nibbelink was initially in the walk zone, but after the distance of the driveway was added, bus service to her street was restored.

However, the new revisions have still cut 20 streets from normal routes, and the students who live there must now walk to school.
The county has been discussing this change for several years, but finally approved it this year due to massive budget cuts. The reduction of bus services was viewed by the county as a better alternative than making cuts in the classroom, but the decision certainly did not come without opposition.

Many parents in Leesburg are concerned for the safety of their children, stating that the new walk routes are dangerous because the streets that their kids have to cross are often unsafe. Though traffic regulations are in place, speed limits are often ignored, and drivers do not always yield to pedestrians as they are supposed to.

It’s not just the parents that are upset, but the students themselves. Juniors Megan Fogelson and Lauren Hoffman are two students who have recently had to add walking to school into their busy schedules. Though there are ways to make the walk more enjoyable, such as walking with friends and listening to music, there are a lot of concerns that they have about the routes. “I am okay with it as long as the weather cooperates,” said Hoffman, “but I am worried about what will happen once winter brings ice and snow because the paths that I walk will not be maintained.”

Fogelson also has her own problems with the routes, such as how she has to get up an hour earlier each day in order to walk to school. “The walk generally takes about 25 to 30 minutes from my doorstep to the front of the school,” she said. Students often have to leave early to allow for extra time in case the weight of their backpacks, traffic lights, or drivers slow them down.

It would seem that with the decrease in bus transportation for many students, there would be a drastic increase in the number of walkers, but many students have opted to be dropped off at school by parents and friends instead.Though there are less buses on the road, the number of cars has increased significantly, and this has caused the greatest concern amongst the new walkers. “I almost get hit probably three times a day, even though I’m paying full attention and have the right of way when the crosswalk sign changes,” said Fogelson.

While the time and energy it takes to walk to school each morning and afternoon is an annoyance to some students, the biggest problem that most of them have is concerns about their safety. Tuscarora is doing everything it can to remind student drivers to be aware of their surroundings, and drivers can do their part by remembering how important it is to share the road with pedestrians. The goal for now is for students, drivers, and administrators to embrace the change while still staying safe.