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Bus stop sparks controversy

Dale Goby, right, goes over some little known bus trivia with some new recruits and their instructor. Photo by G. Ouzounian (click for larger version)
August 15, 2012 - Safety is of the utmost importance for schools, especially when elementary children, who don't know better, are concerned.

But one Lake Orion parent is worried that's not the case, especially so because the child at potential risk is her 10-year-old son. Sarah Stupanenko, of Barrington Circle, is worried because due to changed arraignments, her son will be dropped off in the neighboring Stratford Lane. This means he will be have to walk on a sidewalk next to the busy M-24 highway and she's not happy about it.

"Last year he attended (a day care center) and was dropped off there after school," said Stupanenko. "He was dropped off there from second grade to fourth grade and now he's not going there anymore because of the expense. It's just not financially possible for me anymore. When he went to Pine Tree there were four kids getting off on Barrington Circle but now that he's at Stadium the bus runs to Stratford instead because more kids are getting dropped off there."

Stupanenko called the transportation department to ask for a change in the bus stop but was told the stop needed to remain because of the great number of kids getting off in Stratford. An option was available in filling out an alternate bus form, but normally the bus form is not available until after school starts. The form is then on hold for around three weeks before review until a notice of whether or not the form was approved is sent out 30 days after initial submission.

Stupanenko is worried the change will not be soon enough to prevent her child from walking along the high speed road. An alternative walking route is available, but it sends the child past a registered sex offender's residence. Stupanenko is frustrated by the impasse.

"Basically there is no answer and he's already started school by the time the form is looked at," she said. "I also worry they will be less likely to honor my reason because once school starts it will be an established route."

But Director of Transportation Dale Goby said there is a reason the requests aren't available until after school starts and it's not to make it easier for the department. Routes are not finalized until the beginning of the school year and changing a route that doesn't exist is impossible. Still, he understands Stupanenko's plight and said he's already physically looking into the logistics of the bus stop in question - a task he does personally with every request.

"I'll go out and physically review the place and I'll look at other locations that are similar, but we maintain consistency on how we handle situations that are similar," said Goby. "I'd look at M-24 where we have other stops and see how those are handled. The reason is that any other parent could request the same thing. The question is can we do it and yes we can. However if we're not doing what is requested in other places we will probably not do that here."

Goby will likely have an answer for Stupanenko by the end of the week.

As with other areas related to schools, funding is down and money is tight. This has resulted in even bus stoppage and acceleration being taken into account in terms of fuel economy. Every bus stop means the bus must come to a full stop and start again, which is wasted gasoline. It also means more time which means more money lost to driver wages.

Goby said while the department can not always accommodate the requests, which become most frequent at the beginning of the school year, there are other options to reduce risk and aid in getting kids home.

"We've put together some helpful hints for parents and students because since we've reduced the number of stops new problems have arisen," he said. "Parents will accidentally create a problem by driving and parking at the entrance to their subdivision. There are also all kinds of opportunities because what we offer is a service with limited opportunity. I'm not sure what avenues are available to specific parents, but I recommend talking to parents and the principal of the school to review options (for transportation.)"

Dale Goby has been involved in transportation for around 30 years and said despite the problem, Lake Orion is one of the best operations he's ever seen in the state.

School begins Sept. 4 for Stadium Elementary.

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