BENTON CITY -- Some students in the Kiona-Benton City School District will not receive school bus service this year as they have in the past.
Students living in residential areas about a mile south of Kiona-Benton City Elementary School in Benton City will be affected, according to an Aug. 14 letter from the district's transportation office. Classes start Wednesday.
The letter cites compliance with state transportation standards as the reason for discontinuing the bus routes. However, parents have cited concerns about the safety of having their students walk to school instead.
The affected neighborhoods -- which include Sanlynn Estates, Hillview Mobile Home Park and the 1400 block of Kendall Road -- are about 11/2 miles from Kiona-Benton City High School.
Resident Marie Hansen, who operates a daycare along one of the discontinued routes, said three of the four children she looks after will be affected by the changes.
"One parent said he didn't even get a letter," she said.
About one out of four students the district bused to school in the 2010-11 school year live within a mile of their school, according to a state report. Superintendent Rom Castilleja and district transportation director Mark Noyes have not responded to requests for comment on the bus routes.
Hansen said she's concerned about students, including her teenage daughter, walking in the area, as there aren't proper sidewalks and other safety features. She added it will take more than 20 minutes for elementary students to walk to school.
It's unknown how much of a cost savings the district could see from discontinuing the routes. According to the latest data available from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the district spent about $476,000 on busing for the 2010-11 school year. The state covered $341,000 of that expense.
Allan Jones, OSPI's director of student transportation, said the state provides funding to transport students who live outside of one road-mile from their school, or within that limit if there are hazards. However, that doesn't mean districts can't bus students living closer.
"We don't restrict districts in what busing they provide," Jones said.
Hansen said she and the parents of children in her daycare are considering other transportation options, including a shuttle service from Ben Franklin Transit. However, there still are concerns about how effective and safe that option is, plus it will cost the affected families extra.
"Some of the parents are still nervous because it's unfamiliar," she said.