SIDNEY — The safety of students who have to walk to school and the recognition of a veteran who encourages Americanism at Sidney High School were two of the topics during Monday night’s Sidney City Schools Board of Education meeting.
Mother Stacy Smith, of Monroe Street, and grandmother Cassaundra Sumlin, of Dayton, voiced their concerns about Smith’s son having to walk 1.9 miles one way to school each day. It takes the 11-year-old boy 40 minutes to walk to school, said Smith.
“He’s walking through all kinds of neighborhoods and numerous crosswalks,” said Sumlin. “His mother can’t afford to get him a cellphone.”
Other concerns Sumlin shared includes:
• The amount of time it takes the students to walk to school or if they are riding a bicycle, 35 minutes.
• The possibility of sexual predators living along the route the students walk to school.
• Unfamiliarity of the people who live in the neighborhoods. There’s no designated “safe” house in case of an emergency.
“This doesn’t promote a calming, tranquil atmosphere for them to learn,” said Sumlin. “Because they live below the poverty level shouldn’t dictate how the busing is set up.”
She also voiced her concerns on what the students will do when it’s raining or snowing.
“The state of Ohio has a free and appropriate education for all students,” she said. “But what if that child was afraid? What if that child was scared?”
And that, she said, is what is happening to her grandson.
Smith said a bus comes to the neighborhood each day to pick up a special needs child.
“Why can’t my child ride that bus,” asked Smith who became emotionally while addressing the board.
Smith said she also carpools with two other parents to get their children to and from school.
“My child is new to the area,” said Smith. “There have been six OD’s on our block. Is my child going to be safe as he walks home? When you let school out on those hot days, he had to walk home. He was crying because I couldn’t be there for him.
“I’m a mom and single. I work two jobs. I have to depend on a neighbor to help me. I pray that he gets to school safe. It’s not fair that he can’t get on a bus.”
When contacted Wednesday morning, Superintendent Bob Humble said according to state regulations, “A district does not have to bus students if they live within 2 miles within the school on normal bus routes. Cutting through alleys doesn’t count.”
Smith’s son, said Humble, isn’t eligible to ride the bus which picks up the special needs child.
“The bus that picks up and drops off a special needs student is required per federal law. If we took their kids because a bus did come by there we’d have to do everywhere,” said Humble.
While Humble doesn’t see the district making any changes to bus routes at this time, they are trying to come up with a solution to make sure all students are safe walking to and from school.
“Mandi Croft (board member) last night drove to the street where the family lives and suggested that maybe we can give a list of ‘safe’ places that a student could go if they felt unsafe on their walk,” said Humble. “I have asked Jason McClain, who is in charge of transportation, to reach out to those places and others all around the district to come up with a list of places that kids go to from every building so that we may be able to provide such a list to every family of students who walk to school.
“I was very glad that that parent spoke up with her concerns and we can hopefully provide some peace of mind. I am not crazy about the way we do busing but due to financial constraints this is all we do right now,” he said. “This is something I would like to take a look at this coming year to see if another plan is more feasible.”
Brett Bickel, Sidney High school social studies teacher, honored Chuck Craynon, who has served as American Legion Post 217’s Americanism chairman for 16 years. Craynon is retiring as chairman of the program.
“It takes a special person to push for this program,” said Bickel. “He provides American flags for the school. He helps with our veterans memorial.”
Sidney High School students are eligible to take the Americanism test each year.
“There are 20winners every year,” said Bickel. “Fourteen percent of all the winners have come from Sidney High School.”
The prize for winning the contest is a weeklong trip to Washington,D.C.
Craynon also assists with the Buckeye Boys program. Two or three SHS students attend the program yearly.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with Sidney High School,” said Craynon. “Brett is a special teacher. He’s a good teacher and that’s evident by the number of winners over the years (from SHS).
“This success is not because of me, it’s because of teachers like Brett,” he said.
Students who have been successful on the Americanism test, said Craynon, have also been successful in their fields of endeavors.”
Craynon said he is 78 years old and feels it’s time to retire because it’s time for somebody younger to step up and take over.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.