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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The head of the Jefferson County School Board says busing students across town does not put them at higher risk for traffic accidents, and Friday's bus crash is not causing JCPS to re-think its student assignment plan.
School Board Chair Diane Porter says the wreck was unfortunate, but, unlike some parents, she does not blame the controversial busing plan.
Following Friday's crash, some angry and anxious parents had sharp questions for JCPS. "With so many schools being in the West End, why do our black children have to get shipped to Ft. Knox?" asked Cherisse Jones.
"I'm not understanding why is my daughter going all the way out, down near Ft. Knox, when we're in the West End," said Luretta Todd.
We put those questions to school board chair Diane Porter, whose District 1 covers the west end. Porter says, first, Friday's crash cannot be blamed on busing. She says accidents can happen anywhere at anytime: "I believe that we had an accident that involved 51 of our students, and that is not the same topic as the student assignment plan. That's what I personally believe," said Porter.
But what about those West End parents who want to keep their middle school kids closer to home? "The reality of it is that in District 1 there are a limited number of middle schools," said Porter.
In fact, there are five in the West End and downtown area. But each of those schools is either a magnet or traditional school to which parents must apply. The idea is to attract diverse students from across the county to West End schools. A limited number of seats are set aside for neighborhood students.
"The board is committed to providing a climate that mirrors the real world," said Porter.
Porter says the idea of neighborhood schools may sound appealing, but, she says, it would not end busing or the potential for accidents.
"Do we want to send our elementary students, our kindergarten kids, walking to the closest school, or to any school? We have to provide transportation because of the size of our district. We are a large urban district."
The number of bus accidents over the past three years, both major and minor, has ranged from a low of 231 last year to a high of 265 in the 2009 school year.
So far this year, there have been 13 school bus accidents.