Parents in Lakelands are making one last effort to try to get Montgomery County to provide a school bus to take students to Quince Orchard High School this fall.
A request by a group of parents to have the bus route restored for students walking two miles from the Lakelands community to the high school was rejected by Montgomery County Public Schools Transportation Department officials this spring. Now the group is planning to appeal that decision to the Montgomery County Board of Education.
The community lies within the two-mile radius for students to be considered walkers. Lakelands had bus service until about two years ago. When the community was finally built-out, Department of Transportation officials deemed the area to be within the two-mile guidelines for walkers and found the route a safe one. The bus service was then cut.
Some parents, however, disagree that the route is safe, arguing that Route 28 is not a pedestrian-friendly road. They suggested MCPS send an underutilized bus servicing students along Great Seneca Highway and High Gables into Lakelands.
“I hope that you can appreciate our concern for the safety of our children. Safety above all should be the school system’s paramount concern,” said community activist Jim Wakefield, who spearheaded the petition drive to restore the bus route.
Wakefield also argued that students who traveled to Route 28 via an unlit easement off of Still Creek Lane were trespassing on city property and were not provided a safe walking route following that path. Gaithersburg City officials countered saying the easement was a public right-of-way and open to the public at all hours.
Wakefield’s plea was rejected May 25 by Department of Transportation Chief Operating Officer Larry Bowers.
“Many neighborhoods throughout Montgomery County have walking conditions that are similar to the route [Lane] in the Woods students take to Quince Orchard High School, “ Bowers wrote in his decision. “The same safety standards that have been applied to the walk from these other neighborhoods in the Quince Orchard community as well as neighborhoods throughout the county have been applied to the walking route to Quince Orchard High School from your neighborhood. … Restoration of bus transportation within the community to Quince Orchard High School would exceed the level of service provided to other schools throughout the county.”
Samuel Simone of Still Creek Lane filed an appeal of that decision this summer to Patricia O’Neill, president of the Montgomery County Board of Education. Simone could not immediately be reached for comment on the appeal