Students in the Monona Grove School District could see a change in the way they get to school after the district updated its bus transportation and walking zones for the 2021-22 school year.
Driven by the construction of the all-new Granite Ridge School in Cottage Grove, district officials contracted with Traffic Analysis & Design, Inc. (TADI) to analyze and revise the bus and walking areas for students in the 4th to eighth grade.
“With the opening of Granite Ridge School, we needed to establish a walking area and a transportation area for the new school,” said District Business Services Director Jerrud Rossing. “On top of that… Taylor Prairie is going through some big setup changes, as is the Cottage Grove School.”
Under Wisconsin law, students who live within a two-mile radius of their school are not automatically eligible to take the school bus.
However, if a district can prove the existence of “unusually unsafe conditions” in a location within two miles of the school, children living in those areas may be eligible for the bus.
“State law states that the district must transport students who live three kilometers or more from the school,” Rossing said. “However, if a school board or school district wishes to transport students below that three kilometers and qualify for state assistance, it must have an exceptionally unsafe transportation plan.”
TADI’s director of traffic engineering safety services, John Campbell, said the traffic company had examined the surroundings of Winnequah, Taylor Prairie, Cottage Grove and Glacial Drumlin schools to identify any potential dangers.
The Winnequah School Walking Zone will be extended next school year, meaning fewer children will automatically be eligible to take the bus, the Monona Grove School Board approved on June 30.
Students living in certain areas west of the school district office on Monona Drive to Tonyawatha Trail, with the exception of Winnequah Road, will no longer automatically be eligible for the bus.
The opposite is true for Taylor Prairie, which will have a much smaller walking area and allow greater bus eligibility. Students living outside the intersections of School Road, Sunset Drive, W. Clover Lane and Starlight Lane will now be eligible for bus transportation.
The Cottage Grove School Pedestrian Zone has expanded to include sections of Crawford Drive, Main Street, and Willow Run Street, but will no longer include W. Ridge Road.
The Glacial Drumlin walking area has been expanded to include the areas surrounding the Sandpiper Trail, Vilas Road, and Damascus Trail.
For those who live inside the walking zone but still wish to take the bus, Rossing said families can participate in a program the district calls “Buy a Bus Seat”.
“We are providing the option for families who live in the pedestrian zone to purchase a bus seat,” Rossing said. “As with all of our expenses, if there are financial difficulties, we waive them to make sure that families who… want to put their children on the bus [can do so]. “
The Ministry of Public Instruction states that an unusual danger is “an existing condition of transport which constitutes more than an ordinary danger and seriously compromises the safety of pupils going to and from school”.
To determine a generally unsafe area, analysts look at things like speed limits, crosswalks, sidewalks, typical amounts of car traffic, stop signs and parking, Campbell said.