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Willow Lane Confusion: Who Knew What When?

Does anybody remember if the original intention was for students to walk to Willow Lane Elementary School?

In the past several weeks, parents of Willow Lane Elementary School students have begun to question authorities. Clearly they are casting a wider net -- beyond the East Penn School Board -- to ensure the safety of their children.

What's not clear is whether Lower Macungie Township dropped the ball, or the East Penn School District changed the plans.

The East Penn School District eliminated busing to the school for the 2012-2013 school year when it passed its most recent budget. It then reconsidered and postponed the decision.

Several parents have started a Facebook group, "Protect the HAWK," and on Dec. 18 several parents addressed the township's Public Safety Commission.

On Dec. 20, the parents addressed the township's Board of Commissioners with concerns that there are no signs that indicate the area is a school zone, nor are there any other safety measures in place.

Indeed, a student was hit by a car at an after-school activity in 2011.

That's because Willow Lane was never meant to be a "walking" school, said Commissioner James Lancsek.

Lancsek, who served as the township's zoning officer for 25 years, explained that he was privy to the entire planning and zoning process for Willow Lane Elementary from the very beginning.

"Walking was NOT an issue," Lancsek said at the Dec. 20 BOC meeting, "This is a change in plans," he said of the intention for students who live 1.5 miles or less from the school to begin walking to and from in September.

"It's not the way we were told, but we're going to be the ones holding the bag," Lancsek told parents at the meeting.

He also said he and Lower Macungie Township personnel were going back through the minutes of the zoning hearing board to make sure they're correct that Willow Lane was never intended to be a walking school.

Other township minutes, however, could indicate the township knew Willow Lane was intended to be a walking school.

Under the heading of "Old Business" in the BOC meeting minutes from March 4, 2010, Township Manager Bruce Fosselman reminds the commissioners to review a "Right of Way Maintenance Ordinance" regarding the area around the school:

"Mr. Fosselman said there will be students walking to the new Willow Lane Elementary School next fall and suggested a committee look at the maintenance of sidewalks before that time."

The statement suggests that the township was well aware that students would be walking to Willow Lane early in 2010 before the school ever opened.

Fosselman said Wednesday that's really not the case.

"The school district was convinced there would be walking students, but it backtracked from there," Fosselman said.

"[Lancsek's] statement was based on what he remembered," he said.

The township continues to search the minutes of the zoning hearing board, Fosselman said, to determine what the original intention really was and if and when it changed. Plans were made for the school in 2006 or 2007, he said, before Fosselman became manager in 2008.

"The school's calling the shots," Fosselman said. "We're following."

Sussan Morgan January 04, 2013 at 04:39 PM
I am so sick of kids being caddled. Parents do yourself and the children a favor. Let them walk and learn to enjoy a walk in the air. KIDS are sooo spoiled,the safety is in numbers. Let your children learn to be children. Susan M
ted.dobracki January 04, 2013 at 10:47 PM
The question isn't only what may have been intended in 2006 or 2007 when the school at Sauerkraut and Willow was chosen over a second school at Brookside, but more whatt has happened since then. The LMT minutes Mark cites from 3/2010 clearly show that Mr. Fosselman informed the supervisors that he expected that students would be walking that fall (2010), and proposed a committee to look at it. That was two full years before the EPSD bussing/budget debacle. That really doesn't say who dropped the ball later at either EPSD or LMT later. But I've found the following artcile that suggests that the two entities were working together at some level in the fall of 2010. http://articles.mcall.com/2010-10-28/news/mc-east-penn-bus-walk-20101027_1_willow-lane-elementary-school-safe-paths-school-director-charles-ballard What happened before then probably doesn't make as much difference as what has happened since then, mostly during 2011. No matter what the original intentions were before 2010 almost doesn't matter, since by then everyone knew the plan was for kids to be walking, and they haven't made it work yet.
Mark Spengler January 05, 2013 at 02:02 AM
Good find Ted! I just hope for the best now.
LoMac Res January 05, 2013 at 04:49 PM
A lot of people are talking about the speed of traffic on Willow Lane. That is actually a secondary issue, and I think a lot of residents will regret it if we have blinking 15 mph school zone on these roads for significant morning and afternoon time periods. There are good, paved bike paths and sidewalks well off the roads leading to Willow Lane from every direction. The real issues are these: 1. Children crossing the intersections at Willow & Sauerkraut and at Mill Creek & Sauerkraut. Very significant upgrades are needed to make these safe. 2. Children crossing the Willow Lane bridge over the Little Lehigh, which lacks a sidewalk, and the lack of sidewalks or bike paths on Willow between Lower Macungie road and the start of the existing bike path. 3. Keeping snow cleared (in time for morning classes, no less) all of the time on the bike paths and sidewalks leading to the school. Kind of amazing that the issue is hanging this long after the school was built. I think responsibility for that needs to be share by the school board, the superintendent, and the township. Items 1, 2, and 3 are simple common sense if it's a walking school, and you don't need to be an expert to see what needs to be done. This could and should have been foreseen, planned, and built for when the school was still on the drawing board.
sam moratori January 06, 2013 at 04:58 PM
wow r u kidding me, who said what when, fix the the problem, not place blame, typical political runaround, lmt and ep are to blame, instead of stuffing our tax money into contributors pockets, fix the problem and end the useless blame game.

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