After several parents approached Wapakoneta City Schools Board of Education members this week about safety concerns at bus stops, school administrators plan to again review those in question.
Evelyn Jones addressed board members about the bus stop for her great-granddaughter, who attends Wapakoneta Elementary School and who lives in the 600 block of Willipie Street.
Jones said her great-granddaughter is three blocks from the nearest bus stop and either must cross Maple Street or the railroad tracks to get to a bus stop.
With the girl’s mother having a young baby and toddler at home, she would have to take both of them out to watch her daughter get on the bus.
The great-grandmother walked the girl to the stop herself but fell twice doing so last year.
“I’ve seen a bus stop three houses away when it crosses the tracks,” Jones said. “Her mom could stand on the porch and watch as she got on the bus.
“I know it’s only three blocks away, but as little as she is that is not a very good area for a small child,” she said.
Jones said she called once at the beginning of the school year and was told a change couldn’t be made — but she wanted to try again.
“It would save a lot of time and trouble,” Jones said. “So many kids have been abducted. I know no one would like to see any one get hurt here in Wapakoneta. If there’s any way possible I’d like you to change it.”
Wapakoneta City Schools Superintendent Keith Horner said he would look into the matter and get back with Jones about her concerns.
Horner, District Transportation Supervisor Dave Tangeman and Operations Director Mike Watt Wednesday visited the stop Jones was concerned about and another area brought up at a meeting this week but they have yet to make any subsequent decisions.
“In town, we have group stops for all age levels, and we try to do it within two blocks of where students live,” Tangeman told the Wapakoneta Daily News. “The city is laid out in a checkerboard and no matter where a student lives a bus stop should be within a couple blocks.”
Specifically addressing the stop in question, Tangeman said there are sidewalks that go directly to the bus stop but the girl would be required to cross one street with a four-way intersection. Her stop is two blocks from her residence, but around the corner.
She is not required to cross any railroad tracks to get to her selected stop.
“Every stop takes so much time and the more stops we have the more time it takes,” Tangeman said. “By state law, we can ask a student to walk up to a one-half mile to the bus stop.”
He said they try to put bus stops at locations where the largest population getting on that bus are centered.
“Unfortunately, in this town, because there are so many areas without sidewalks, we can’t make that a parameter,” Tangeman said.
“We try not to have them cross the CSX tracks and do consider safety,” he said, explaining how bus stops are determined.
When a complaint is received, Tangeman said he goes out and reviews the area and often the district’s operations director or superintendent may review the stop as well.
“We will make changes based on safety issues but not for the convenience of parents,” Tangeman said.
Four other women came to the meeting with concerns about Woodland Drive off County Road 33A, where students must wait for the bus at the end of the road, as per district policy, buses do not drive down cul-de-sacs to pick up students.
The group brought pictures of what the stop looks like in the early morning hours when students are boarding the bus, how dark it can be at 7 a.m. and how slopes in that section of the road can be deceiving.
“Cars drive 55 miles per hour plus down the road, what if a child is hit? Adding one stop would take less than half a minute,” Kristi Oliff said of her request at the stop, where children are all under 9, and most of the five are younger than that.
Oliff said a turnaround at the end of the road was put there just for the bus. There are no sidewalks on the road and no place for the children to walk when the snow is piled up. When there is inclement weather, they are left standing at the bus stop along U.S. 33 whether its pouring rain, ditches are full of snow or roads are icy.
She said in previous conversations with district administrators she has been told the policy would stay as written.
“It’s an issue we will continue to look at,” Horner told the concerned mothers Tuesday night.
Tangeman said there are several areas in the district comparable to Woodland Drive and they have asked students to come out to the main road so buses don’t have to go in and turn around, which can be a difficult situation.
“We ask them to come to the end unless we can go in and come back out without doing a turnaround,” Tangeman said. “Doing that puts you into a bad situation and risks more damage to property.
“We’ve looked at the stop before and do not feel the stop is a safety issue,” he said of the location where most of the students who get on there are within 500 yards of the stop.
Tangeman said they do handle roads, such as Fox Ranch and Ramga, which are longer, a bit different.
“We are not able to eliminate every turnaround,” Tangeman said. “We still have to do some.
“We do address and review bus stops annually and change them as we see fit and the student populations warrants,” he said. “While we try and make it as economical and efficient as possible, we don’t want an unsafe bus stop out there.”
Watt said the district stopped sending buses down Woodland Drive for stops several years ago. There have been problems with buses getting stuck during inclement weather and having problems turning around.
He noted that students do not have to cross U.S. 33 to get on or off the bus at the stop.
Bus routing for the district is determined using a computer program to determine the best and most efficient route with each driver given a print out of his route.
“It’s a time and efficiency issue,” Watt said, noting they are worried about safety.
“We look at situations and there have been situations where we have made changes considering safety,” Watt said.