KATY, Texas - Katy ISD sends police officers to dangerous intersections to protect student walkers attending the new Tays Junior High School.
This action took place Tuesday, as the district also works with Fort Bend County for longer term solutions. But some parents say they will continue to fight for bus service to ensure their children's safety.
"It's ridiculous. No one gives the children a chance," said a mom Tuesday morning who put herself in harms way to stop traffic for children.
Fox 26 Reporter John Donnelly was in a live broadcast Tuesday morning when he heard tires screech at the intersection of Roesner and Spring Green near the Silver Ranch subdivision. It was a near miss that did not cause any injury, but certainly illustrated the concerns of parents who are unhappy that Katy ISD has, so far, refused to provide bus service for their subdivisions.
Katy ISD is within the guidance of state law, which says the district does not have to provide bus service to Junior High schools for students who live within a mile radius of the school. The trouble is that one mile radius is "as a crow flies," and since children do not fly, they are having to use walking routes that are much farther than a mile on foot.
Additionally there are major intersections that the children are having to cross. Only one of those is within a school zone, where the district can place a crossing guard. The others are multiple lane, four way stops, where right-of-way determination is confusing for drivers during rush hours.
"We were presented with some video that was worrisome," said Katy ISD Spokesperson Maria DiPetta. "Parents sent emails and called the district and they've said, 'Look. Something needs to be done.'"
Katy ISD acted on the issue by dispatching Katy ISD police to the intersections for Tays' afternoon dismissal. Superintendent Dr. Lance Hindt told Fox26 by phone he was personally overseeing the problem to ensure the safety of the students. Dr. Hindt says he was working with Fort Bend County Commissioner Andy Meyers on the matter, requesting expansion of school zones. School zone designation enables the district to hire and place crossing guards at the intersections. Without that, school district officers and Fort Bend deputies need to be used for the intersections, when their presence could suddenly be drawn away by emergencies.
"I appreciate the crossing guards and all of that stuff, but our kids need a bus," says parent Jen Lee who talked with Fox 26 Tuesday afternoon. "That's the only safe way to get them [to the school.]"
Many parents will say the crossing guard is insufficient, or a Band-Aid response, to a bigger problem. They want to know why Tompkins High School students, whom they say, walk the same route as Tays Junior High Students in reverse, have bus service.
"The district set a president where they've awarded it to the high school kids. Now they want our kids to walk 2.3 miles," Lee says. "To me it's a no brainer, and it's our kids safety."
"We want to let parents know they have rights, and we, as a district, are respecting their rights," DiPetta says. "If they don't like the decision that comes from the district they can file and appeal or a grievance, and that will go to a separate committee who will review their concern."
Parents are challenging what they believe is an inequitable application of district policy.
Meanwhile, on the longer term solution, Fort Bend County Commissioner Andy Meyers confirmed collaboration with Katy ISD. Meyers' told Fox26 about the progress made on the issue Tuesday afternoon. Here is the full text of the Commissioner's correspondence to Fox 26:
"Fort Bend County is committed to the safety of our children. In an effort to address parent concern, Fort Bend County is coordinating with KISD to extend the school zones to the intersections of Hawks Prairie and Spring Green Boulevard and Rosener [SIC] and Spring Green Boulevard so KISD can provide crossing guards at both locations. Fort Bend County Precinct 3 Deputy Constables will also provide traffic control at Rosener [SIC] and Spring Green Blvd. intersection and KISD Police has been providing traffic control at Hawks Prairie and Spring Green Blvd. in the morning and evening. The intersection of Spring Green Boulevard and Roesner Road had previously been identified for funding of a Traffic Signal in Fiscal Year 2017. The design of this traffic signal will begin this fall. The county is discussing with MUD 58 sharing the cost of a Traffic Signal at Hawks Prairie and Spring Green Blvd."