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Students may soon be bused to Watertown elementary schools

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A long-enforced busing policy in the Watertown City School District might be revised soon.

Superintendent Terry N. Fralick recommended that all elementary pupils be bused to school — no matter how close they live — at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.

Under current policy, no children who live within a mile of school receive transportation.

“We feel strongly that this would minimize the liability for students that are walking,” Mr. Fralick said.

The rule has been in place since before Mr. Fralick became the superintendent a decade ago.

Assistant Superintendent of Transportation Jason R. Ring said parents complain every year about their young children having to walk to school.

Concerning children in kindergarten through fourth grade, “that’s a tough conversation to have,” he said.

However, Mr. Fralick said, parental complaints have become stronger since families began moving into the apartments in Creek Wood Housing on Mill Street. Before Norstar Development USA, Buffalo, added sidewalks to the development site, the Watertown Board of Education voted to allow an exception for Creek Wood kindergarten through fourth-grade pupils attending North Elementary.

After the sidewalks were added, those children continued to be bused, and then parents at nearby Maywood Terrace were unhappy that their children had to walk to North Elementary even though they were the same distance away as Creek Wood.

David E. Keruskie, parent of a North Elementary pupil, told the board he is happy about the superintendent’s recommendations. He said the most direct route is not a safe one.

“There’s 20 registered sex offenders from Maywood on that path,” he said. “I’m very glad you are looking into this.”

Mr. Fralick said a resolution will not be presented to the board until he has collected more information from Freeman Bus Corp. and knows what it will cost the district.

“It may be November by the time we have all the information we need,” he said. “I’m very interested in moving forward with this. I think it’s time that our district at least offer” kindergarten through fourth-grade busing.

Board President Cynthia H. Bufalini said it will be a great way for younger students to learn how to behave on a bus rather than having them wait until they are enrolled at H.T. Wiley Intermediate School.

“These little kids are going to get to learn bus protocol,” she said.

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