Stone's throw too close

Aaron Krause • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:18 PM

What's one-tenth of a mile?

To a local family, it's a matter of riding the bus to Norwalk High School or walking 45 minutes each way.

To Norwalk City Schools officials, it is a matter of following district regulations.

Norwalk resident Stacey Maynard, who has two teenagers in school, disagrees with district officials about the distance between her home, 55 Milan Ave. and the high school, 350 Shady Lane Drive.

According to the Ohio Revised Code, public school districts in the state may, but are not required to, provide transportation for high school students. Each school board, the law states, has the right to set limits as to which students can ride. The Norwalk City Schools Board of Education has voted to offer transportation to high school students living two or more miles from school.

Dustin Brown, the district's director of support services, said he and Superintendent Wayne Babcanec have measured the distance twice each. The result each time: 1.9 miles. Maynard said she looked up the mileage on www.mapquest.com, and it came out to a little more than two miles. Maynard's older son Brian, 25, said he drove the route with Babcanec, and the distance was 1.9 miles. However, Brian said he also drove the route himself, and the result was more than two miles.

Brown said he and Babcanec measured the distance by taking the most direct route, as required by state law. They started at the bus lane at Norwalk High School, went out of the parking lot, took a right onto Shady Lane, a right on Norwood Avenue, a left on Benedict Avenue and a right onto Main Street and a left onto Milan Avenue to the residence.

Brown said he and Babcanec stand by their measurements.

So, since Maynard lives less than two miles from the school, her teenagers, 15-year-old Leslie and 16-year-old Christopher, walk 45 minutes each way to and from school when they cannot get a ride. They leave home at about 6:30 a.m. on walking days.

Brian had been taking them, but said he's been busy since having a baby with his girlfriend. Stacey Maynard said she does not have a vehicle, while her husband is at work before Leslie and Christopher go to school. Christopher does not yet have a driver's license.

Brian Maynard said he doesn't think it is fair his siblings have to walk 45 minutes each way.

"What are the kids supposed to do come a rainy cold day?" he asked rhetorically. "They expect them to walk in it. What's it hurting, a couple extra couple kids getting on the bus."

View Larger Map

The map above shows the route from 55 Milan Ave. to Norwalk High School. Google Maps calculates the distance at 2.0 miles.

Brown said he is not singling out the Maynards. In fact, he estimated he gets 10 such complaints from parents each school year. The largest surge in calls, he said, come when children are entering high school. Brown said that is probably because through eighth grade, Norwalk City Schools' students were eligible to ride the bus if they lived a mile or more from their respective school. As they enter high school, that suddenly changes to two miles or more.

Brown said it all boils down to his requirement to follow the rules established by the school board and the Ohio Revised Code.

"I'm not trying to be insensitive to the situation, but unfortunately I have a policy that I have to enforce," he said. "(The Maynards) are not the only ones that are in this condition. This is not a conspiracy against one family; this is about being bus-eligible."

In fact, Brown said he thinks school officials are being more than fair. He noted the Ohio Revised Code stipulates that kindergarten through eighth grade students living more than two miles from the school are eligible to ride.

"Our school board has chosen to exceed the Ohio Revised Code by doing one mile or more," he said. "The school board has chosen to do more for the community than required."

But, the prospect of walking in frigid weather worries Brian Maynard.

"It concerns me a lot because I don't think any kid should walk in it," he said. "I've worked in it eight hours, 10 hours a day."

Brian said his siblings are concerned as well: They're not looking forward to having to walk during the chill of winter.

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