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Incomplete Studies Partly to Blame for Transportation Problems in District 308

Board President Bill Walsh said the district will need to completely re-evaluate its busing systems.

The Board of Education will continue to work through transportation issues caused in part by what officials said Monday night was the lack of complete traffic studies that were to be done before the school year started.

The district  for Wolf’s Crossing and Bednarcik students Monday due to safety concerns caused by a high traffic volume and other hazards along walking routes those students had been taking since school started Wednesday.

Superintendent Matthew Wendt said the district reinstated bus service to the schools after discovering commitments to changes that were to be made that would have ensured safe routes were never completed. Wendt said when the board voted in May to suspend bus service to the schools enough information hadn't been gathered. 

“Parents had an understanding that the following (painted crosswalks, crossing guards) would occur so their son or daughter would be safe walking to school,” said Wendt.

However, he said the community was on “summer break,” and at the end of July projects that had been said to occur had not yet happened. The deadline for many of the projects was mid-August, and Wendt said when he realized those deadlines would be missed, he became concerned. 

The initial traffic studies done for the Wolf’s Crossing and Bednarcik area were conducted during the summer months and met traffic requirements at that time, said Paul O’Malley, assistant superintendent of business. A traffic count completed once school had started painted a completely different picture.

“In about one and a half hours there were 1,200 cars,” said O’Malley.

Board President Bill Walsh said the Board was told at its May 7 meeting that students would be able to walk safely if crossing guards and crosswalks were put into place, which turned out not to be the case.

”We have to re-evaluate the entire transportation system,” he said. “That includes even more schools because we were told traffic studies were done, and I don’t believe all were done.”

While Wolf's Crossing and Bednarcik students are currently being bused in the hazard zones, Wendt said the district will work on a long-term solution throughout the year.  

“Is there no reason we can’t paint crosswalks or work to change the speed limit during the school year?” he asked.

To transport those students, the board voted 5-0 for a three-year leasing agreement with Midwest Transit for a total of 15 buses to be added to the district. The buses will be in use for the new routes for Wolf’s Crossing and Bednarcik, along with wherever else they may be needed.

“None of the buses will be sitting in lots,” said O’Malley. “They will all be used.”

The district is looking at a $5.5 million projected deficit for the fiscall year 2013 budget, and Board Member Alison Swanson expressed concern over the additional money being pulled for transportation.

“Let’s find efficiencies,” said Wendt. “We will recoup these dollars.”

Walsh said the district's primary concern must be the safety of students.

“We have to get the kids to school safe first," he said. "Then we can continually evaluate the system throughout the school year.”

Angela S August 28, 2012 at 08:39 PM
Let's talk about the fact that are jamming 3 kids to a seat on the busses that are going to Murphy from the Homestead school area. 3 to a seat might be safe if you are in kindergarten and can sit on the seat safely on the seat behind the seat in front of you. The last kid in on the seat is sitting half on half off that is a sudden stop accident waiting to happen. Our childrens are NOT safe on these busses!
Martin August 28, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Angela, If that is true, then it is incumbent on the bus driver to point out this problem and not drive the bus. If the bus driver won't do anything about it, you need to raise it to the the bus company, school district, and police....not necessarily in that order.
Angela S August 28, 2012 at 08:49 PM
I was told by transportation that 3 to a seat was ok and the bus driver has been instructing the kids "3 to a seat the bus is really full"
JimmyJ August 28, 2012 at 09:18 PM
This is a good example of how this district works. When there are meetings to talk about building schools or how much of a referendum is needed..people stay home. When it's a boundary issue or a transportation issue, everyone crawls out of the woodwork. My suggestion is that you get involved in ALL aspects of the district. So now, if the BOE had commissioned a study, the complaints would be...oh buy they spent more money on some consultants...s now they tried to do it in house and look what happened. I fail to see how you all can blame the BOE. You complain that they micromanage..so should they have done the study themselves? They didn't and the person who did isn't here so who do you want to fall on their sword? in case you haven;t noticed we are 55 MILLION...55 MILLION dollars short of balancing a budget. I can't wait to read the comments when things start disappearing and they will disappear. Again....when it's time for the election, pick up a copy of the Ledger...don't vote for those with a single purpose and those who mean well...and vote for those with experience is real management, real budgeting and real leadership...however those folks usually don't run.
JimmyJ August 28, 2012 at 09:23 PM
@Laura Bee...you are absolutely right...I get the feeling though that the community only feels this way now, perhaps because of the BOE now in place...which is unfortunate because of more had been involved starting say 15 years ago, thinsg may very well be different now. This BOE is more overt in many ways as compared to several past ones which were "smoother" shall we say.
JimmyJ August 28, 2012 at 09:24 PM
to the best of my knowledge it costs nothing to throw your hat into the ring, but you will need to have signs made up and get them out into the neighborhoods, other than that...it's just your time.
Laura Bee August 28, 2012 at 09:57 PM
55 Million......Is that all? Let's keep pushing so we can catch up to Geneva's district which is at 304 Million and pushing. We can do it !!! Geesh .......! It figures of all the financially negitive things in our society, the one thing run by teachers and school administration is the WORST ! Where is all the smarts, why aren't these teachers with their so called "Master Degrees" that we pay so much extra for stepping up and saving the day ? The schools in a non criminal world would be the best damn run business in country. You'd at least think that. But, everyone is out for a money grab, so here we are. Discusting.
Larry Martinez August 28, 2012 at 10:05 PM
@JimmyJ, You missed a decimal point. $5.5 million. Capacity: bus manufacturers determine that 'capacity' based on "fanny space" ( no, I'm not making that up, it's the term they use) of 13 inches per... Well per fanny. Any knowledgable student transportation professional will tell you honestly that 71 junior high fannies is NOT realistic or safe. Next time you call transportation ask them this question: what is the recommended load maximum for junior high students? Better yet check the website there used to be some FAQ's there that spelled out the guidelines. Granted they were originally written by some nitwit, but they were still there last I looked.
JimmyJ August 28, 2012 at 10:54 PM
Thanks Larry...i missed that, give it a couple years though...for what it's worth..I understand the point you made on another post about you implementing the decisions made by others. I friend of mine in Geneva, IL pays $10,000 in property tax...I got that number right $10K with the bulk going to the school system. His house is in Fisher Farms which is not quite like Gates Creek...less brick facades..more vinyl. We have this panic every school year...this leads to the theory of the "bubble" which has been the shock tactic used by the administration when pushing for referendum money. What grades did those 500 new students go in to? Certainly not all of them are in the same grade. So if you evenly disperse them for the sake of argument evenly between K thru 12 it's 42 ( rounded up since you can't have .6 of a kid) per grade level....take K-5, there are 13 of those schools evenly distributed that would be an increase of 3.23 kids per building. You would need 3.77 more kids to put one in every grade. Now BEFORE all of you who love facts and figures and concrete jump on me, this simply shows that 500 more students isn't always the doom and gloom 308 makes it out to be. Like I said this happens every year and every year the parents get all jacked up about it. I'd wait until the actual figures are published which is a week or so after Labor Day normally and you will see where they are.
JimmyJ August 28, 2012 at 10:57 PM
@ Cindy & Martin....I sent two through 308 K-12 because of my wonderful experiences along the way..my last child attends a private school in Aurora, the interesting thing is that about 2/3 of the students are from D308! If there was a voucher system....D308 would be D O A
Larry Martinez August 29, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Right. Over 17K+ kids, 500 isn't a bulge, more of a tiny bubble.
Oswego parent August 29, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Until you walk a day in the shoes of anyone at the Transportation Department, I really don’t think you have the right to comment or judge.
LSJ August 29, 2012 at 07:49 AM
Recently, I found out that we pay for children's taxi fares to and from school if they are considered homeless. From my understanding these children are not homeless. They just have had to move out of the district because of financial difficulties. These kids are living in other districts, some quite far from here. I don't understand how this makes sense when bus transportation has been cut back. What happened to going to school where you live??
Martin August 29, 2012 at 11:31 AM
Illinois allows open enrollment? That's what cross district\boundary schooling was called in Iowa
JimmyJ August 29, 2012 at 12:05 PM
I'd like to see more information on this, when you move out of district you are then in another district and you go to those schools...or so I thought. Maybe if your address is a shelter it's not so? Need more info.
JimmyJ August 29, 2012 at 12:10 PM
Martin...I know 308 will allow cross boundary enrollment under certain circumstances. You have to apply and both schools have to agree. That was the process as we tried it two years ago before bailing to private school. I remember when they first built OEHS and some families were split...I know several people who borrowed addresses so both students could stay at OHS before the district worked it out. If you do manage to enroll across boundary lines you have to provide transportation. Some of the buses you see also run to the "opportunity school" and their schedule may be a bit different.
LMS August 29, 2012 at 12:23 PM
"The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is a federal law that ensures immediate enrollment and educational stability for homeless children and youth. McKinney-Vento provides federal funding to states for the purpose of supporting district programs that serve homeless students. Defining “Homeless” :The McKinney-Vento Act defines homeless children as "individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence." The act provides examples of children who would fall under this definition: Children sharing housing due to loss of housing, economic hardship or a similar reason Children living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camp grounds due to lack of alternative accommodations Children living in emergency or transitional shelters Children awaiting foster care placement Children whose primary nighttime residence is not ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation (e.g. park benches, etc) Children living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations Migratory children who qualify as homeless Children may, after the passage of 18 months or annually thereafter, conduct a review as to whether such hardship continues to exist in accordance with State law." If kids have merely moved out of district they enroll in their new district. Big difference. This information was extremely easy to find.
JimmyJ August 29, 2012 at 12:45 PM
LMS thanks for the info. I remember seeing a story on TV about Kissimmee, FL..the strip of motels on the main drag is (hopefully was) home to families who had lost their homes and the district ran bus service to accommodate the kids.
Larry Martinez August 29, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Is this directed at me? Because I spent over seven years RUNNING the department. I still live in the district, pay my own hefty share of taxes and certainly do have the right to comment and critique. There are some terrific, hard working people in that department - there are some slugs just there to collect a paycheck and beat their chests, like any workplace. And there are some that are just plain in over their head.
Larry Martinez August 29, 2012 at 01:17 PM
@LMS - Gather a group of school district administrators in a room and say the words "McKinney-Vento" and watch the shouting begin. Federal funding? Yeah right. The act does call for the 'home' district and the one the kids are living in to share transportation costs. And it allows for the districts to advise in some cases to have the kids educated where they live -for example if it's just too far away to be practical. Unfortunately, sometimes a taxi is the best option. The good news is that the state requires taxi drivers driving students to and from school to have the same School Bus Driver's Permit that bus drivers have - which includes the physical, background check, etc..
LMS August 29, 2012 at 03:41 PM
That "federal funding" shouting match stretches across many topics, and wasn't my point. Ultimately tax payers foot the bill either way (which I personally am more than willing to do.) The poster who brought this off-topic subject up made it seem like scores of children moving out of district for financial reasons were being taxied back in. That's false. In the rare cases where homeless children are being taxied to school I imagine that was the best solution the district could come up with. I'm not sure this happens with a frequency that warrants a lot of community discussion and scrutiny, but anyone who want to come down like a hammer on homeless kids and their transportation to school can keep derailing the topic of Incomplete Studies Partly to Blame for Transportation Problems in District 308. All I request is that the posts be fact based, rather than false statements that begin with, "From my understanding..."
Oswego Parent August 29, 2012 at 07:32 PM
I WOULD LOVE TO WALK IN THEIR SHOES!! I have been trying to Brandi from Transportation to call me for 4 days regarding a serious safety issue to no avail!! Apparently she doesn't give a flying f*** about the safety of the children. I would at least have the common courtesy to contact a parent back!
Martin August 29, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Oswego Parent...Which safety issue? Maybe if more parents knew about it and called in, calls would be returned. :)
JimmyJ August 29, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Go right to the admin office. Don't waste time on a phone call. Demand to see the Superintendent the more noise you make the better the chance you will be heard. Thats what I would do and have done when Dr. B was here. I found that many times the underlings dropped the ball.
John Tips August 29, 2012 at 08:58 PM
Just thought I would provide for you some other interesting information. I own a small 3 bedroom home in the small town of Vergennes, in Southern IL. near Carbondale. There is a grade school on-site, a community center, bank, and a few local businesses. High schoolers get bussed to a school 15 miles away, and the fire department is all volunteer! The Kids there have heard of a bookmobile as well! Our roads are paved! Our Police protection is Jackson County, who might take 20 minutes to respond. Most people have shotguns - so crime is rather low! My property taxes are less than $500.00 dollars a year ! That is FIVE HUNDRED a year! Not the over $7500.00 what we are paying here! Our taxes are a sham for what we get from all of our community services! Our schools, fire, police, roads, libraries, parks, and local governments are wasting our money - while we go broke Thought you may get a smile out of the comparison up here , to life in the rest of Illinois! As soon as my wife retires - we are leaving this politically motivated RATS RACE and moving South!
Oswego Gladys August 29, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Brandy is driving routes to help cover all the former walkers. Please keep trying she will get back to you. And Larry maybe you should let folks know why you no longer run the department.
Oswego308FactCheck August 30, 2012 at 05:31 PM
What is the allowable number of students that can be seated on a school bus? 3. School buses can transport three to a seat if passengers are in Kindergarten through grade five, and two per seat in grades 9-12. Source: http://www.isbe.state.il.us/funding/pdf/pupil_transp_faq.pdf
Oswego Resident August 31, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Oooooh, tell us more Gladys, tell us more.....
Adopt don't Shop September 02, 2012 at 01:26 AM
My son told me he is half on/half off of the seat on the way home from school, sitting 3 to a seat. When he asked the bus driver if he could sit in a seat left empty by departing students, he was told "No". What's the sense in that???
Community Resident October 20, 2012 at 11:15 PM
How interesting. I just came upon this article and Larry is here. I remember dealing with him somewhere around 2003/2004 when I had my daughter in early childhood and was on a bus for 50-60 minutes. Oh did I make a lot of phone calls. Looks like the transportation department is still a hot mess 8 years later.

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