Parents take to the streets to protest school closing planBy Suzanne Perez Tobias
The Wichita Eagle
Several parents stood at busy street corners in west Wichita on Friday to protest a plan that would close their neighborhood school and send students to schools farther away and across major thoroughfares.
“We’re worried,” said Annie Baldwin, whose daughter attends Bryant Core Knowledge Magnet Elementary near Ninth and West Street.
She stood at the corner of Ninth and West Street about a half-hour before school started, holding a sign that read: “Would you want your kid crossing here right now?”
Hundreds of cars rushed past along the five-lane road.
Other parents held signs near the intersections of 13th and Zoo Boulevard, Zoo and West Street, and Central and Clara.
“Young children crossing these streets at busy times. … It’s dangerous. And we just don’t think the (school) board has considered all the factors,” Baldwin said.
Bryant is one of four elementary schools slated to close under a new boundary plan school board members will discuss Monday.
More than 200 children who attend Bryant live within its neighborhood boundaries — an area bordered by Central, Zoo Boulevard, West Street and I-235 — and many of those children walk to school.
The proposed plan would send Bryant students to three other elementary schools: Black, which is east of West Street; Dodge, south of Central; or OK, north of 13th and Zoo.
Superintendent John Allison has said the district will have to close some schools in order to open and operate new ones being built as part of a $370 million bond issue.
Bryant, Emerson, Lincoln and Mueller were selected to close based on several factors, he said, including building condition, enrollment, type of program and proximity to other schools.
At a special meeting earlier this week, board member Lanora Nolan questioned the plan to close Bryant and asked Allison to “look at the viability” of closing Black Elementary instead. Black, a traditional magnet, is less than a mile east of Bryant.
“I’m sure that (closing Black) was considered, and I would like to have that seriously revisited as an option,” Nolan said.
Board president Betty Arnold cited procedural concerns, saying the board couldn’t vote to direct Allison toward different school closures until its next regular meeting.
It’s unclear whether Nolan plans to bring up the issue again Monday.
Allison said once new boundaries are established, the board would re-evaluate walking routes that could send students across major streets.
The state doesn’t help pay for busing students to school if they live less than 2.5 miles from a school.
The district, though, pays to bus students if they would have to take what is considered a hazardous route to walk to school.
Hazardous routes include streets with higher speed limits or that lack sidewalks.
Baldwin, the Bryant parent, said closing the school and busing students elsewhere doesn’t make sense.
“Right now they’re five or 10 blocks away,” she said. “We just want (board members) to really look at what they’re doing and look at what it means.”Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or email@example.com.
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