While Milwaukie schools complain, one Portland school sings light rail's praises

A Milwaukie light rail safety meeting last week started out with many of the same issues as the meeting in Portland a week before - surveillance, increased security staffing and other popular issues. But the meeting was soon dominated by local schools' concerns -specifically those from St. John's Catholic School and the Portland Waldorf School.

The schools' representatives were concerned because three of the proposed stations - at Monroe, Washington, and Harrison Streets - would be within a block of one of the schools.

'St. John's Church and School will be adamantly opposed to Monroe and Washington stations, and we will support Waldorf 100 percent,' said Jerry Foy of St. John's school.

Cyndia Ashkar of the Waldorf school said the trains, which would run within about 40 feet of the school, would disrupt the school atmosphere and interfere with the children's learning.

She said the noise from the train, especially if there are bells or other auditory warnings at crossings, disrupts the students' neurological processes by pulling them psychologically from the learning environment.

'When rail vehicles go by, it rattles the building, so there is the students and the learning affect of that,' she said.

Ashkar referred to the 'cumulative impacts' of tactile distractions from the vibrations, auditory distractions, and visionary distractions from seeing the train go by.

'There's also the vision, which puts the brain more into the fight-or-flight, more primitive state of mind,' she said.

Foy also expressed concerns about the accessibility to and from trains, especially at the nearby high school.

'A major concern is people coming onto the campus and students being able to scurry off easier,' he said.

Light rail 'only an asset'

Stephanie Hinckle, director of the Trillium Charter School in Portland, said she loves the light rail being so close to the school.

'We have had no problems with the system … It's been only an asset to us,' she said.

The MAX runs right in front of the school, at 5420 N. Interstate Ave., and the Killingsworth station is less than half a block away.

Rather than treat it as a vehicle of threats to the students, administrators at Trillium teach their students how to ride it safely and use it in various programs.

'We do a lot of training with our students,' she said. 'We use it lots for field trips, students are doing things out in the community.'

She also said high school students at Trillium are able to do internships throughout the city because of the easy access.

Hinckle also said the noise isn't a problem.

'It's certainly very quiet. The traffic around here is louder than the train.'

But it's not just the school that sees benefits from its proximity to the station.

'Sometimes on the stops there's been a couple of minor problems, but, the one out here, we are able to keep an eye out and kind of run people off,' she said. 'I think having light rail right by a school kind of deters things that might go on - at least during the day.'

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