Board mulls parking proposal

District 55 School Board members and staff discussed concerns over a Sweet Home Active Revitalization Effort idea to use part of the old high school tennis courts, now a high school parking lot across Long Street from the school, as a drive-through for RVs, which may have difficulty pulling into and out of a parking area if a new building is constructed to house the Chamber, SHARE and other organizations.

SHARE is preparing a plan to combine the Chamber of Commerce property with the one just to the east, owned by Sweet Home Economic Development Group, to construct a new central business hub downtown. Among ideas, SHARE hopes to use the parking lot off Long Street to allow RV traffic access to the new building.

“I asked them, who’s going to pay for the first kid that gets hit,” Supt. Larry Horton told the board. “I’m concerned that somebody’s going to get hit.”

Students move around the parking lot before school, during lunch and after school, he said. At the same time, there isn’t much RV traffic during the winter, and he has no problem with summer traffic using the parking lot.

High School Principal Pat Stineff’s main concern was that opening the back of the parking lot to the Chamber property would open a direct shot across Long and Main streets from the high school and that students would use that rather than the crosswalks at 15th Avenue.

The possibility of striking a child is high, said John Fassler, board member, echoing Horton’s comments.

The idea hasn’t been before the SHEDG Board, which funds and oversees SHARE, said Kevin Strong, School District business manager and SHEDG president. Right now, the idea is under development by the SHARE committee.

“We’re a part of the city,” said Chanz Keeney, board member.”They’re trying to help the city. If the streets were done right, I don’t see what difference it would make.”

School buses pull into the high school, and no one has been hit, Keeney said.

But they’re trained, said Jason Redick, board member.

He’s not saying he’s for or against the idea, but he likes the idea, Keeney said.

In addition to safety concerns, the district already has a variance from minimum parking requirements for the high school, Horton said. If the district were to give up parking spaces, “we’d still have to go to the city for a larger variance.”

“I wouldn’t mind seeing a proposal,” Redick said. Right now, it’s early. He suggested letting the idea go through more of the process before spending more time on it.

In other business, the board:

– Recognized football player Christian Whitfield, a high school senior, for defusing a potentially serious conflict between Sweet Home and Douglas players during state playoffs in Roseburg. Football official Steve Switzer wrote the district a letter praising Whitfield.

During a scuffle, officials called an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Douglas, Switzer said. He saw a player, Whitfield, going after someone in a big hurry, with determination. Switzer reached for his flag ready to throw an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

“We knew the emotions had heated up, and we wanted to make sure we had control of the situation,” Switzer said. “This kid was on a mission. But there were no opponents in sight €“ only his own teammates. I stood there and watched. Wow. That, sir, was the definition of a leader. I know why he is a captain on the team, and in discussions with my fellow officials, they spoke highly of his leadership not only on that play but all day long.”

– Approved a two-year $274,000 grant for Foster School to develop a technology-based program to improve writing scores.

The federal funds were awarded by the Oregon Department of Education. Students will write in blogs and forums and work on web pages, videos and digital photos.

– Accepted grants from several sources, including Intel, $3,000 for Foster’s Outdoor School; $17,900 for Foster’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetal Program; $15,000 in Safe Schools/Healthy Student Grant funds to help fund the school resource police officer; $3,000 in a state partnership grant for the ASPIRE program; $900 in IDEA funds for extended assessment training; and $5,942 in stimulus equipment grant funds.

– Horton reported that he had applied for three grants to replace the lights at the baseball field, including a $160,000 application to Major League Baseball; $2,500 to Home Depot; and $2,000 to Friends of Baseball.

– Stineff reported that since the introduction of the high school’s new cell phone procedure, the school had four students commit two infractions, requiring parents to pick up their phones at the end of the day, and one student committed a third infraction, requiring a parent to pick up the phone the following Monday.