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Beaverton School Board cuts bus routes for 1,000 students

Board overrules parent concern and follows state guidelines to decide safe walking routes to schools.

Beaverton School DistrictDespite an outcry from parents living north of Highway 26, the Beaverton School Board on Monday, April 27, voted 6-1 to cut bus service for more than 1,000 children this September.

In approving staff recommendations, the board followed guidelines set by the Oregon Department of Education, which only helps pay for transportation of children who live too far from school or have unsafe walking routes.

Early in the meeting, several parents testified that despite guidelines, walking up to a mile to Oak Hills and Terra Linda elementary schools was unsafe for young children, especially when routes take them along busy roadways such as Northwest Bethany Boulevard and Northwest Saltzman Road. Some of the parents and their kids held signs reading “Bring back the buses!”

During a long discussion hours later, after most of the families had left, board members repeatedly questioned staff but ultimately approved the cuts to bus services. Bus service at those schools will now be more in line with schools elsewhere in the district, said Ron Porterfield, the district’s deputy superintendent of operations and support services.

“That’s very disappointing,” said Kim Alejo, parent of an Oak Hills student, after hearing about the late-night vote. “This is a terrible idea.”

Alejo helped gather about 280 signatures from Oak Hills parents and other area residents who opposed the bus route cuts. Oak Hills has an estimated 337 students who will lose bus service, the most of any school in the district.

Porterfield said the proposed cuts followed close evaluation and unanimous recommendation by a committee that includes district staff and representatives of other agencies. They looked at not just distances, but also traffic volumes and speeds, and the availability of crosswalks, crossing guards and adequate sidewalks or other walking areas.

“They went out and they visited those sites. They walked those sites. They drove those sites,” he said.

Porterfield’s committee said that children elsewhere in the district also walk along or cross streets at least as wide and busy as Bethany Boulevard and Saltzman Road.

“I think each school needs to be taken into account separately,” Alejo said Wednesday. She believes traffic volumes and speeds are too high and sidewalks too narrow on Bethany Boulevard, which some students will now have to cross if they walk to school.

Parents from Terra Linda who testified Monday said they also feared their children would be imperiled by traffic along Saltzman.

An estimated 27 students will be impacted at Terra Linda, one of the smaller bus route reductions that will affect more than 1,000 students attending nine district schools.

Parents also have expressed concern about reduced busing to Bonny Slope, Sexton Mountain, Jacob Wismer and Montclair elementary schools, and Stoller Middle School. School officials met and walked routes with parents at most of those schools after the proposal was released about two months ago.

No concerns were voiced by parents of students attending Cedar Park Middle, Springville K-8 and Southridge High schools, district officials reported.

The proposed cuts were part of a periodic evaluation of safe walking routes around the district. Some of the areas where bus routes will be reduced or cut altogether have had road, sidewalk and pathway construction that make walking a safer option. The district also will add crossing guards along walking routes to Montclair, Oak Hills and Sexton Mountain elementary schools.

Some district schools also have programs aimed at encouraging students to walk to school to promote healthy lifestyles and reduce pollution.

Mary VanderWeele, chairwoman of the board, said she wonders whether parents are getting the message that the district simply is following state rules.

“I think it would be really helpful for folks to understand these are the criteria we’re applying district-wide,” she said.

In the end, the board accepted the full slate of recommendations. The only dissenting vote came from Donna Tyner, who several times during Monday’s discussion talked about unsafe conditions due to the lack of sidewalks around the district.

By Eric Apalategui
Beaverton Reporter
email: eapalategui@commnewspapers.com
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