Parents who have been driving their kids more than one-and-one-half miles to school will not be reimbursed by the state of Illinois this year. Riverside Brookfield High School District 208 Interim Superintendent David Bonnette informed RB parents in a memo last month that the General Assembly made no appropriation this year for the Parent Guardian Transportation Program.

Under the program parents who had to drive their kids to school were reimbursed by the state for a portion of their expenses. The typical reimbursement amount was about $122 Bonnette said. Last year 66 RB parents or guardians made claims through the program, Bonnette said.

Typically the payments were made in December for the previous school year. Claims made for the 2008-2009 school year will not be paid Bonnette said.

RB currently provides no bus transportation to any of its students although school districts in Illinois generally provide free transportation to students who live more than one-and-one-half miles from school or who have to cross a dangerous intersection to get to school.

Bonnette said that he believed RB had a waiver from the state and is not required to provide bus service to its students.

“We’re exempt from the regulations by virtue of language in the school code, as I recall,” Bonnette said.

At a meeting to RB’s Patron’s Council last month a parent of an RB student complained about North Riverside students having no direct or safe route to RB.

Forest Preserves and the Brookfield Zoo block the most direct route to RB from the areas of North Riverside west of 1st Avenue. 1st Avenue does not have sidewalks from 31st Street south to RB. Most parents do not allow their teenagers to walk along 1st Avenue because of this.

The parent wanted RB to provide bus service to students in North Riverside. Bonnette said that would be nice but is not now financially feasible.

“In an ideal sense, if the funding was there, yes that would be a desirable thing to do,” Bonnette said.

Some North Riverside students go out of their way and head east to Desplaines Avenue and then west to RB on Forest to avoid 1st Avenue.

“1st Avenue is a major expressway,” said Cathryn Rydz who teams with another parent to car pool their kids to and from RB. “I’ve told my kids if I can’t come pick you up or something then you need to walk through Riverside because it’s a lot safer. You’re just counting on the parents to drive every single day.”

Rydz said she has seen some RB students walking along 1st Avenue.

“I wish there was a better way,” Rydz said. “I’ve seen these kids in the winter walking through the piles of snow.”

Former RB school board member Bill McCloskey grew up in North Riverside. When he was a freshman in 1974 RB provided a school bus to take North Riverside kids to school.

But only four or five kids rode the bus McCloskey recalled.

“It was ridiculous,” McCloskey said. “It was just a big waste of money.”

After the school bus was cancelled midway through his freshman year McCloskey walked to RB cutting through the Brookfield Zoo. All you had to do was show your school books and you were let in the zoo to walk to RB McCloskey said.

But now the north entrance to the zoo is closed early in the morning and RB students are unable to cut through the zoo.

Bonnette said he is hopeful that the zoo will allow RB students to cut through the zoo at least on their way home.

“I had a conversation with the safety director at the zoo about that possibility,” Bonnette said. “I have not, at this point, pursued it, but I do have a series of meetings coming up this month with different zoo officials so we may have some further conversations about it.”

Jacqui Glosniak, an RB senior who lives on 11th Avenue in North Riverside, says she has only walked to RB once because it is just too far and there is no direct route from her home to the school.

“It’s too long,” said Glosniak, who usually car pools with friends. Parents often share the driving duties for younger students.

“We just depended a lot on our parents, Glosniak said. “We get out of (Cross Country) practice at like 5:30 and we would still have to wait until 6 or 6:30 for my parents to get off work or their parents to drop everything.”

Former school board member Karen Bensfield lives in North Riverside. She said that it has always been hard for North Riverside kids to get to RB.

“That’s just been a problem forever,” Bensfield said.

What’s the solution?

“Carpooling would be probably the best approach,” Bonnette said.