Board saves five bus routes

Posted: Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Juneau School Board voted unanimously to keep the five school bus routes slated for elimination for another year.

At its Tuesday meeting, the board went into an executive session to discuss whether to uphold Superintendent Peggy Cowan's decision to cancel five bus routes in Mendenhall Valley, leaving children who live within 1.5 miles of their schools to walk to school.

The district had first planned to remove the bus routes last school year, but the board agreed to continue them and evaluate if the routes are too hazardous for children to walk.

On June 8, parents from Mendenhall River Community School and Riverbend Elementary School appealed Cowan's latest decision to a subcommittee of three School Board members. The parents said it would be dangerous for children to walk in darkness and snow during the winter.

Two routes to Glacier Valley Elementary also were to be removed, but parents didn't file an appeal.

On Tuesday, the board adopted the subcommittee's recommendation, denying the appeals but keeping the bus routes for another year.

"The superintendent acted in accordance with the policies established by the board," said School Board President Mary Becker.

Keeping the bus routes will not cost the district any extra money, she said.

But the board directed its policy committee to reevaluate its stand on canceling bus routes for children who live within 1.5 miles of the schools unless the routes are hazardous. The committee should report back to the board by November.

The board also decided to have a private consultant study the traffic patterns and road conditions of the five bus routes for three days between Nov. 15 and March 15.

Parents had complained that school district staff failed to conduct a traffic study throughout the winter as the board had directed.

"We feel that it is possible that the study wasn't conducted during the most hazardous times of the winter," Becker said. "Our hazardous-routes guidelines need to be reworked."

Parents said they were relieved by the board's decision.

John Lohrey, whose two sons attend Riverbend, said if the board decided to cut the bus, he would have to work with other parents to carpool their children to school.

"My son Michael tends to have bronchitis in the winter," Lohrey said. "I don't want him to walk to school in the winter. And our children would have to walk across six streets to school."

Celeste DeRego, a parent who appealed, said she is glad the board decided not to put the children at risk. She is planning to recruit other concerned parents to support the establishment of a transportation committee.

"It's not over yet," DeRego said.

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