Because of safety concerns, new bus routes will be implemented starting this week for Crook County elementary students.
>Safety concerns lead school district to change elementary bus routes
Crook County School District Transportation Supervisor Roger Lyle said the district is phasing in new routes, beginning with Ochoco Elementary on Jan. 23. District personnel began discussing the potential for new routes last year.
"You know, the main reason that we did this was for safety reasons and to do away with transfers at the high school, which pretty much everybody in the school district thinks is an unsafe situation," Lyle said. "The other side of that is we were going to have to add some routes due to overcrowding."
One new route is up in Juniper Canyon and others are planned for the IronHorse and Northridge subdivisions.
"You know, I'm trying to plan ahead for future growth there," he said.
Noting that some buses were already overcrowded, he split up the routes for elementary, middle and high school students.
"So the change we are doing this week is (for) the Ochoco Grade School, and we've already had those routes done for some time," Lyle said.
The transportation supervisor said that when the district was ready to implement the new Ochoco routes about a month and a half ago, district personnel found out that a lot of parents use the buses to get their students across town to daycare and babysitters. Lyle said that originally, the district planned to pick up students at Ochoco and take them home. But in the spirit of customer service, Lyle decided to implement a different route.
Now a bus will travel to Ochoco, Crooked River Elementary and Cecil Sly, and later stop at IronHorse, as well as the day care centers. Lyle emphasized that this reduces overcrowded buses and allows students to travel across Prineville to their babysitters or daycare businesses.
"We're trying to emphasize safety," Lyle continued. "The need to pick students up at their schools and transport them home without any stops or transfers in between."
The supervisor is working on the new routes for Cecil Sly and Crooked River elementaries.
"I'm thinking by the end of February we're going to be all done with this," he said. "All the routes will be done."
Flyers are going home with Ochoco students, explaining the new routes. Additionally, flyers are planned for the parents of Crooked River and Cecil Sly students.
He said he's heard from some Cecil Sly parents that they notice a real change in attitude with the new Juniper Canyon route.
The new routes will not apply to Paulina School or Powell Butte Elementary.
"No, the Paulina School is already separated," Lyle said, adding that a bus from Paulina comes into Prineville and drops off the high school students.
As for Powell Butte Elementary, three routes in the rural community pick up Powell Butte students. Lyle said these students only ride for a short time together until they are split up.
"So I didn't feel there was a need to create more routes," Lyle explained.
"I think it's mainly for dealing with a safety situation," Lyle concluded of the route changes. "They're (elementary students) not observing the bad behavior. My hope in the long run with the grade schoolers is that we can teach them the proper behavior to ride the school buses at the early ages, and that by the time they reach the middle and high school age, that will be the normal behavior."