Pleas to alter school bus route spur safety inquiry


No matter how long it takes, Vicki L. Magness vows she will get her son's school bus route from Abingdon Elementary School to her home in Constant Friendship changed.

The school system has not been swayed by Ms. Magness' arguments that her Scott, 8, must play "Russian roulette" crossing the street when he gets off the bus every day.

But the board voted unanimously Monday for a suggestion by Ray R. Keech, the school superintendent, to form a safety committee to report on the bus route by Oct. 26.

That committee, to include members of the Harford County Sheriff'sOffice, was proposed as a compromise after emotional testimony from Ms. Magness. No one had been appointed to the panel as of Friday.

"We thought Dr. Keech was the leader and the decision maker in this county, but . . . it appears as though he is just interested in talking around an issue that plays Russian roulette with children's lives," Ms. Magness told the school board.

"We do care about the safety of our youngsters," Mr. Keech retorted. "I personally took a look to see if that stop is any different from hundreds of other stops in the county. It looks like the visibility is good, especially in comparison with other bus stops."

But Ms. Magness and other parents say the bus, which transports children from Abingdon Elementary School, should take a more circuitous route in the afternoon, re-entering the neighborhood from Route 24 and dropping children curbside so they don't have to cross busy Tollgate Road.

Connie Kemp, another parent at the meeting, narrated a videotape of children getting off the bus. The tape, she said, proved motorists can't see the bus until the last minute because of curves and hills. Many drivers also violate the 35-mph speed limit and don't stop for the bus' flashing red lights, she said.

Ms. Magness said she has been distraught since the first day of school when, she said, the bus driver dropped off Scott and several other children, and drove away, leaving them to find their own way across Tollgate Road to Crisfield Court.

There is no sidewalk opposite the three bus stops, Crisfield Court, Barclay Court and Aiken Terrace.

"It's kind of scary crossing the street because the cars can't see us coming up the hill," said Ashley Deise, 6.

Her mother, Louise Deise, who signed a petition along with 10 other families to change the bus route, said she has gone out in the street to force cars to stop for the bus.

"One elderly woman didn't stop until she was even with the bus. I told her she had to stop for the bus, but she just shrugged," Ms. Deise said.

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