Changes are in the works for students in Cape Henlopen schools, which may mean more walkers at some schools, one-stop pickups for some developments and shorter bus rides for many students.
About 200 postcards have been sent to students living near schools that will no longer receive bus transportation.
Of the districts four elementary schools, Transportation Supervisor Lenny Richardson said Shields and H.O. Brittingham elementaries will be the most affected by the changes designed to comply with state regulations that eliminate transportation for students living within a half mile of the schools.
“Most people have been OK with the walking,” he said.
So far, Richardson said, the district has 156 students living in school areas who walk or have other means of transportation in the morning, and there are 186 in the afternoon.
In Lewes, a bus will no longer pickup or dropoff students who live downtown in an area roughly bordered by Second Street, Burton Street and Railroad and Schley avenues. In Milton, students who live in Cannery Village are expected to walk or find another source of transportation to Milton Elementary or Mariner Middle School. H.O. Brittingham Elementary students living in Shipbuilder's Village also are expected to walk or have other means to get to school.
“It's an eighth of a mile to school for students who live in Shipbuilder's,” Richardson said.
Only Beacon Middle School has no change from last year. All students are bused to Beacon because of its location on busy Route 24. Rehoboth Elementary also has few students affected by the change. Rehoboth sutdents who live west of Route 1 will not be expected to walk because crossing the highway would be too dangerous, Richardson said. Only students living on four streets adjacent to the school – Stockley, Newcastle, School and Lee – are required to walk or find other means of transportation to Rehoboth Elementary.
Richardson said he does not know how many new walkers there will be under the busing changes because the district system did not keep that information last year.
Cape is making busing changes in order to bring the district in line with state regulations, Richardson said. In order to do so, the district requires students in kindergarten through sixth-grade who live a mile or less from their school to walk or use some other means of transportation besides a school bus in order to get to school. The radius increases to two miles for seventh- to 12th-graders.
State regulations also require school buses to pickup at the neighborhood entrances for students whose homes are less than a half mile from the entrance of the neighborhood instead of driving through and stopping several times.
“A lot of people are used to the buses going in the neighborhoods,” Richardson said. “For the most part, we'll be picking up at the entrances.”
Again, hazards, such as busy roads or dangerous intersections, could result in pickups and dropoffs within a neighborhood, he said.
Richardson estimates about 85 percent of district neighborhoods will be affected by the new bus stop designations.
Establishing nontransportation zones is a first step to bring Cape in line with state regulations. The next step will involve changing start times at schools so that the district can make use of double bus runs, which could increase the number of bus runs for all of the schools, Richardson said.
Already, changes to the district's existing bus routes have produced results, said Director of Adminstrative Services Brian Bassett. The district has rebuilt every route, and average bus times have decreased as much as a half hour for some routes.
“We know our buses are running more efficient,” Bassett said.