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Warner Robins mom concerned over Houston County school bus policies

One mom spoke before the Houston County Board of Education asking them why students who live within 1.5 miles of their school are not eligible to ride the bus.

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — A Warner Robins mother is asking the Houston County Board of Education to rethink their school bus policy.

During the Aug. 11th Houston County Board of Education meeting, Kaitlyn Runck spoke before the board asking them why students who live within 1.5 miles of their school are not eligible to ride the bus.

She says she worries about her 9-year-old daughter who has to walk 0.7 miles from her house to Miller Elementary School. 

Both Runck and her husband work, so driving their daughter isn't always an option for them. She says when they do, the pick up and drop off lines are typically long.

"We can't necessarily be in that line for an hour in the car rider line in the morning and night," Runck said.

It's no secret that Warner Robins, like the rest of the county, has grown a lot in the last 20 years, which means more traffic.

RELATED: Boomtown Houston County: Warner Robins Police Department working to keep up with growing population

Runck says the route her daughter has to take isn't the safest.

During the 15 minute walk, she says there are areas without a sidewalk, a stream that floods when it rains and a blind drive at the bottom of a hill.

Her daughter has to cross a road with no crosswalk and a four way stop with a light and no pedestrian signal.

"The only reason that they have given me is just the fact that it’s been a policy. No one has been able to tell me why it’s a policy," Runck said.

Houston County's Director of Transportation Tom Walmer says the policy created by the Georgia Department of Education was adopted by the school system in 1981

He says the state does not provide funding for any children within that mile and a half radius.

"We don’t do it based on the funding reasons because there’s a lot of other things that come into play and the state funding for transportation is so low anyway. It’s almost a moot point," Walmer said.

He says for them, it's about resources.

"With the resources we have and the number of buses we have and the number of bus drivers that are available, in my mind, that mile and a half radius is an area close enough to a school for a parent to find their options," he said.

Walmer notes there are exceptions to the rule. 

Children with special needs have access to the bus no matter their address along with students who would have to cross a major road on foot.

"If it’s within that mile and a half, some do end up getting transportation provided by the school system if it would require them to cross a major thoroughfare, if their family did choose for them to walk," he said.

Roads like Highway 96, Russell Parkway, or Highway 41.

Runck says it scares her to think of her daughter and other young children walking on the roads by themselves.

There are over 30,000 students in the county. According to Walmer, close to 14,500 ride the bus each year. That leaves over 15,000 students to walk, drive themselves, or ride to school with a parent.

Houston County isn't the only area with this policy.

Bibb County has "walk zones" for their students who live within 1.5 miles from its schools as well.

"I think it’s ridiculous making elementary school students walk even a quarter of a mile," she said. "My hopeful outcome is that they don’t allow elementary school students, these students as young as four or five years old, to walk."

Since the meeting on Aug. 11, the Board has contacted Runck saying there are no plans to revise the policy.