State law hampers parents of students who want to use the bus

By Jody Barr - bio | email

CAMDEN, SC (WIS) - A parent in Camdem said her 7-year-old child won't be picked up by a bus and will be forced to walk a mile to and from school.

Angie Nelson said her child will be attending the newly opened Jackson Elementary School in the fall.

Ulanda Cooke's kids are zoned for the new school in Camden, but the problem is they live too close to school to ride the bus, just like in the Nelson case.

"I don't have a car right now, so we would have to walk and I just don't see the point in that when I pay taxes," said Cooke.

Cooke's 6-year-old son used to attend Pine Tree Hill in Camden. Redistricting forced him to move to the new school, which is 1.2 miles from home. State law won't allow him to take the bus. That's because he lives within a mile and a half of school.

"The fact that he would never do it alone, us, as parents, we would have to walk them to school and walk them back and for me, that would be a 6 mile walk a day," said Cooke.

Another concern for Cooke, there are no sidewalks along her path to school, until she hits highway one, where she'll have to cross four lanes of traffic.

"It's a catch-22 for us," said Cooke. "Do we want six year olds walking the highway, mile, or even a half mile? No, we don't."

Kershaw County School District's Billy Smith says districts don't have control over school buses, that's controlled by the legislature.

One option would allow the district to allow the kids to ride a bus that wasn't totally full, or charge parents who live within a mile and a half, a state fee.

Until budgets tightened, the district used to cover that fee for parents, but can't afford it any longer.

"This is law set forth by the legislature and that has to be addressed by the legislature," said Smith.

Cooke fears, if the state can't change the bus law, the costs could be deadly.

"Then you're going to be doing a report about a dead mother and child, killed on their way to school, and I don't really think I need that," said Cooke. "I like my life and I really want to keep living it."

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