The $45.9 million budget passed by the Alexandria School Board last week will force 750 secondary school students to get a little extra exercise next year--by walking to school.
Included in the budget, on which the City Council is to act in May, are reductions in the transportation fund that will, in turn, change the walking distance for secondary school students from 1 to 1 1/2 miles.
"It's been nice having the one-mile limit," said John D. Johnson, the schools' transportation supervisor. "But because of the tight budget, some of the frills have to be reduced."
Board members Lou Cook and William Euille had opposed changing the walking distance, fearing that it might make Alexandria public schools less desirable to some parents. "I don't think the parents are aware of the results of this," said Cook. "The savings are a drop in the bucket, yet it will affect many many students."
The school staff's original proposal to increase the walking distance had projected savings of $203,490. At last week's meeting, however, the board agreed to restore $74,970 to the transportation fund to continue bus service for 218 students who, because of the geography of the area, would have difficulty walking to school.
According to Johnson, this money will be used to continue buses for students who live between 1 and 1 1/2 miles from their school "as the crow flies" but would have to walk considerable distances to avoid obstacles such as Shirley Highway or Holmes Run Creek.
The board also approved a $30,020 addition to the school's contingency fund, with the understanding that the first priority for using the money would be additional buses, if they are needed.
Johnson said students with health problems could be exempted from the changes by presenting a doctor's certificate. He said parents would be informed this summer how the new bus schedule will affect their children.