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.”