Knox County mom concerned about walk to school; daughter can’t ride bus

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A Knox County mom is worried about her 10-year-old daughter walking to school. The family lives less than a mile away from Chilhowee Intermediate, which means the bus system doesn’t have a permitted scheduled stop near their home. Still, the mom says there are too many dangers along that route.

It’s a tough situation because the Thomas family doesn’t have a flexible schedule or anyone to pick up the slack, and Knox County Schools’ policies are cut and dry.

Chilhowee Intermediate School
Chilhowee Intermediate School

“I am worried about the safety of my child,” said mom Wendy Thomas.

Thomas’ address falls under the school system’s parent responsibility zone, meaning when students live between a mile and a mile and a half of the school, they’re not eligible for transport.

Read the policy: Bus Rider Eligibility

“The bus passes my house every morning and every afternoon. It’s not out of his way. The bus is not crowded, overcrowded. There’s room for her. I just don’t understand what the problem is,” said Thomas.

KCS says bus drivers can only pick up students at assigned bus stops. The problem for the Thomas family is picking up the 10-year-old when school lets out. They live less than three quarters of a mile from Chilhowee Elementary, and the girl would have to cross Asheville Highway.

“The interstate is less than a mile. There’s about 20 to 25 sex offenders in my area. She is not going to be walking alone by herself,” said Thomas.

Wendy Thomas
Wendy Thomas

So now the family is calling on school leaders because policies don’t outline changes from parent responsibility requirements depending on what the walk is like.

“Times have changed. It needs to be revisited. Times have changed. We’re living in dangerous times now,’ said Thomas.

The City of Knoxville says this neighborhood is not on this year’s request list for sidewalks. It starts by someone calling 311, making a request, and an engineer will come out to take a look. Projects are then prioritized based on a number of factors like use and proximity to schools.

Fifteen thousand students in the Knox County school system fall in a parent responsibility zone.

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