Columbus grandmother upset over lack of school bus service

Kimberly Gabbard's grandchildren have to walk nearly a mile to school every day.
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A Columbus woman is worried about her grandchildren, who the school district won't let ride the bus.

Kimberly Gabbard must now decide whether to keep them home and risk a complaint from the Department of Child Services or allow her six-, eight- and 10-year-old grandchildren take a 15-minute walk alone.

"I just don't understand why," Gabbard asked as she stood near the curb on Franklin Street in Columbus. "There will be no bus. That's what she said to me and I was just in tears."

Gabbard was standing on the street because there are no sidewalks, yet she says the superintendent of the Bartholomew Consolidated Schools Corporation expects her to allow the children to walk in the street or neighbors' lawns by themselves to get to school each morning.

The family lives seven blocks from Schmitt Elementary. Gabbard's van broke down back in the spring. Her own health problems prevent her from making the round trip to school twice a day.

"I have coronary artery disease and I have degenerative disc disease in my back as well as arthritis in my knees. I can not physically walk them to school, or I would," she said, walking with a slight limp.

Indiana law requires school districts to provide bus transportation for students with severe disabilities. Two of Gabbard's grandchildren have Individualized Education Plans because of learning disabilities and behavioral issues.

But Gabbard says the school district still refuses to grant the children exceptions for bus transportation. She says she lives just inside a mile from the school and schools consider the area within a mile of their schools as a "walk zone."

"The streets surrounding this area are not safe for these children to walk on. There is no sidewalk going all the way up the street that I live on, and the two littlest ones with the issues that they have it's not safe for them to walk," the 51-year-old grandmother explained. "Down 27th Street, as high traffic as what it is, one of them kids would get killed. It's not worth it to me."

The children have already missed a day of school. Thursday, she had a family member walk to the school and escort the children home. She's already working on Friday's plan.

"I'm by myself with these kids. I have no where to turn," Gabbard said.

But her options are quickly running out. Family members are providing some help when they can. She's concerned about a long-term situation.

Neither the transportation manager or superintendent of Bartholomew Consolidated Schools Corporation would speak with Eyewitness News Thursday or explain why there will be no exception for the children, despite at least two school buses that pass just yards from the grandmother's front door.