School Board talks changes to bus service

The District 55 School Board gave Transportation Supervisor L.D. Ellison the go-ahead to seek Oregon Department of Education approval to continue providing bus service to some areas within one mile of school.

The board stopped short of approving the discontinuation next school year of six service areas, affecting more than 128 students, until parents have a chance to speak up. Affected schools include Hawthorne, Foster and Oak Heights. The board will consider those recommendations at its June meeting.

The streets in several areas have improved, with the addition of sidewalks for example, over the last decade, which will force the district to discontinue bus service or lose reimbursement for transporting some elementary students in areas within a mile of their schools, Ellison said.

Elementary students within a mile of their schools do not qualify for the transportation unless they have to walk along a dangerous street, Ellison said. That measure is objectively quantified using Oregon Department of Transportation criteria, including speed limits, traffic patterns, school zone designation, sidewalks, bike lanes and beauty strips, which serve as buffers to the roadway.

For Foster, Ellison proposes having students who live on the loop north of Highway 20 and Center Market walk to collection points for transport to school.

Wiley Creek Bridge meets the definition of a hazardous walking route, with 3-foot railings above a 100-foot drop. Students in areas south of Highway 20 will continue to be bused to Foster.

For Hawthorne, Ellison proposes eliminating service areas west along Long Street to 18th Avenue on Route 1 and the Mountain View area on Route 19, affecting 38 students.

Long Street east of the school will continue to be served because it has no sidewalks. Long Street to the west is scheduled to receive sidewalk improvements.

At Oak Heights, Ellison is proposing cutting service to the Elm Street area, the area around 12th Avenue at the HOPE Center, Second through Fourth Avenue north of Highway 228 and the Nandina area in Strawberry Heights, affecting 90 students.

Turbyne south of Elm Street will continue to receive service because it has narrow graveled shoulders with curves and no sidewalks.

He proposes no changes at Crawfordsville or Holley where areas currently served within a mile of the schools remain hazardous.

None of the changes eliminate a route. All of the affected routes will still have work, and changing them around will be interesting, Ellison said. He is estimating that one route can be eliminated by the changes at Hawthorne and Oak Heights and another half a route can be eliminated by the changes at Foster.

The district has approximately 25 bus routes, Ellison said. If these reductions in service are approved by the School Board, it would save around $100,000 including the cost of a bus, about $68,000; fuel; and labor.

“I don’t know that we’ve advertised this before tonight,” Board Chairman Mike Reynolds said. “We didn’t give parents the opportunity to come here and present their concerns.”

The board agreed to move forward getting approvals for providing bus service in hazardous areas but decided to wait until next month before approving the elimination of routes, so parents can have the chance to provide input.

Present at the meeting were Dale Keene, Chanz Keeney, Diane Gerson, Reynolds, Leena Neuschwander, David VanDerlip, John Fassler and Jason Redick.

In other business, the board:

— Accepted the resignation of Jeff Lynn from the board. Lynn has moved out of the zone he represented.

— Accepted the retirements of from Jeri Hurff, Sweet Home Junior High art teacher, and Kathy Ives, Oak Heights sixth-grade teacher.

— Hired Katie Adams as Title I teacher at Foster; Chris Dahlenburg, Title I, Oak Heights; Tim Swanson, .5 full-time equivalent, Holley, and .5 FTE special assignment as teaching coach; Chelsea Frick, kindergarten, Oak Heights; Jack Nickerson, .5 FTE principal, Holle and .5 FTE special education teacher, Holley, and ELL coordinator; Toby Winningham, fifth grade, Oak Heights; and Connie May, .5 FTE temporary Title I coordinator.

— Approved a request by Anita Hutchins and Little Promises Daycare, which rents the district’s Pleasant Valley School building, to set up a 60-site family-friendly Jamboree campsite this year as a fund-raising tool. The site will carry stricter rules than other Jamboree campsites, including a curfew, to ensure that it is family friendly.

Some neighbors, all those with a view and closest to the site, have been told about the plans, Hutchins said.

She said she would notify additional residents following the board’s approval of her plan. The board asked her to return if neighbors raised many objections.

— Approved a request by KidCo Head Start to open an Early Head Start program in Sweet Home.

The program will use the empty drafting rooms at the high school and cater to pregnant students, infants and toddlers up to age 3 at the school. It is one of three sites where KidCo Head Start wants to establish the program next year. Other sites include Linn-Benton Community College and Old Mill Center in Corvallis.

Services include mental and physical exams, activities and parenting classes.

The board voted 5-3 to approve the deal. Voting to approve were Keene, Keeney, Gerson, Reynolds and VanDerlip. Neuschwander, Fassler and Redick voted no. Fassler and Redick wanted additional information, while Neuschwander said she was concerned that it might promote teenage pregnancy. She wanted to find out what effect it has had in other districts and needed more time to decide.