Thousands of Charlotte-Mecklenburg families will soon be getting letters in the mail telling them about new, and potentially controversial, school bus stops for their children.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has tried to pick up students as close to their homes as possible. But with gasoline expenses high and bus routes becoming more complicated, school officials hope to consolidate last school year's roughly 40,000 bus stops into about 37,000. Many of the more than 111,000 students who ride buses to school will have longer walks to their stops.
For elementary school students, bus stops have been moved up to two-tenths of a mile, or the length of three football fields. For middle and high school students, stops have moved no more than four-tenths of a mile – the equivalent of about seven football fields.
CMS transportation director Carol Stamper said CMS buses travel much farther to pick kids up than N.C. law requires. The state doesn't require local school systems to transport kids who live within a mile and a half of their assigned school, Stamper said. Outside of that, systems can make kids walk as much as a mile to their stops.
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“Any time you make these kinds of changes, there are concerns,” she said. “But I don't think we'll see a tremendous number of students walking four-tenths of a mile.”
CMS officials have said they hope they can save fuel and time by sending buses through fewer side streets. CMS was paying $2.23 a gallon for gas when school opened in 2007-08 and $4.09 by the last day.
Superintendent Peter Gorman said Tuesday that letters announcing the bus stop information had been sent to schools, and schools should be getting the letters on to families by late this week or early next week.
CMS spent $62 million on transportation last year, and used about 3.6 million gallons of gas. CMS spokesperson Carmen Bray said CMS officials likely won't know until late September how much money the consolidated stops will save.
If families have questions or concerns about their stops, she said, they should contact their children's schools.