Gas prices, new law driving school bus crowding |

Gas prices, new law driving school bus crowding

Bobby MagillGlenwood Springs correspondent

It’s getting a little crowded on Roaring Fork school buses. Up to 150 more students are riding school buses now than at this time last year, and Roaring Fork School District Re-1 Transportation Director Larry Estrada is blaming it on high gas prices, traffic jams and changes in the state’s drivers license law. He said parents want to save fuel or avoid traffic jams through construction zones by putting their kids on buses.The crunch is forcing the district to juggle bus routes and prohibit students who don’t normally ride a certain bus route from going home with their friends on that route. “Until further notice, we’re not allowing any extra riders for birthday parties, Cub Scouts, going home with a friend,” Estrada said. “We’re just doing school to home and home to school.”Now that many bus routes are near capacity, he said the district is considering how it can adjust those routes to accommodate all the students needing a ride to school. Many schools’ October newsletters included notices to parents about bus overcrowding.The bottom line for parents is that every child who needs to get to school on a bus will be able to do so, said Glenwood Springs Elementary School Principal Sonya Hemmen. “We’ve got room on the bus for everyone that needs to be on the bus,” she said, adding that few parents have complained about the new restrictions on bus riding. A new law that prohibits new drivers younger than 18 from carrying passengers under 21 could be contributing to more high school students riding buses, Estrada said. Since the law took effect this year, students may no longer carry carloads of friends to and from school, said Penny Paxton, the Basalt Police Department’s school resource officer at Basalt High School. Students with new drivers licenses have to wait six months before they can carry one passenger younger than 21. They have to wait a year before they can have more than one underage passenger. The law, Paxton said, is meant to prohibit inexperienced drivers from carrying around carloads of friends – a common sight at local high schools and a situation in which it’s easy for kids to lose good judgment. Students who normally drive to school will still be able to catch a bus to class any time during the school year, Estrada said. School newsletters encourage parents and students with questions about the new bus policy to call the Re-1 transportation department at (970) 384-5780.

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