ATLANTA (AP) - Rising fuel costs and shrinking budgets have led many Georgia school systems to reduce school bus service, including the number of stops.
School bus stops are farther apart in districts where service has been cut, such as Cobb and Gwinnett counties, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported (http://bit.ly/a1eK ).
That means more students are walking before daybreak and to busier roads to catch one of the 15,000 buses rolling across Georgia each weekday.
"I keep my kids on the side, mostly in the grass, and I've nearly gotten hit by cars," said Diana Nicholson, who drives or walks her boys to school from her Jonesboro home.
Nicholson wants her sons --- Timmy and Brock --- to ride the bus. But Clayton County Schools ended bus service within 1.5 miles of its schools about a year ago, leaving about 4,600 students to find another way to class.
One reason routes are being cut back is that the state is picking up a much smaller share of school transportation costs, officials say.
In Gwinnett County, high school students who live within 1.5 miles of school now have to walk to a major thoroughfare to catch the bus, rather than have it wind through residential streets and closer to their doorsteps, said Jorge Quintana, a school system spokesman.
Several districts are packing their buses with more students to increase efficiency and keeping buses in service longer.
In Cherokee County, buses used to be retired at 10 years. Now they keeping them running for 12 years, said Barbara Jacoby, a district spokeswoman.
In Forsyth County, school buses are carrying an average of 45 students per bus, up from 41 the previous year, said Garry Puetz, a member of the board of the Georgia Association for Pupil Transportation and transportation director for Forsyth County schools.
"How many kids are having to ride in a car, walk to school or ride a bike and are being put at many times more risk than they would be on a school bus?" Puetz said.