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Willow Lane Bus Issue Advances

Motion to take $60,000 from the budgetary fund reserve to pay for buses for Willow Lane is tabled until the Aug. 13 meeting of the East Penn Board of School Directors.

The voted 5-3 last night to table a motion to use $60,000 from the budgetary reserve fund to reinstate busing for students who live within 1.5 miles of .

The motion, made by School Director Julian Stolz, came at the end of a meeting that began with nearly 30 minutes of public comment by Willow Lane parents who came out to urge the board to reconsider its decision to eliminate busing for those Willow Lane students living within “walking distance” of the school.

Do you think the East Penn Board of School Directors should reconsider its decision to eliminate busing at Willow Lane?

School Director Rebecca Heid made a motion to table Stolz’ motion before any discussion among the board occurred, stating that she would like to give the administration time to put together its plan for Willow Lane and present that plan to the board before making any decision on Stolz’ motion.

East Penn Superintendent of Schools Thomas L. Seidenberger assured Heid that that plan would be ready for the board at its next meeting, scheduled for Aug. 13.

Those taking the podium about Willow Lane last night focused on a common theme, questioning the board’s willingness to put the safety of elementary school students at risk in exchange for financial savings that equate to such a tiny percentage of East Penn’s $125 million budget.

They also repeatedly pointed out the seeming lack of a plan for how the new transportation scheme will be handled at Willow Lane.

Richard Muller of Macungie said that he didn’t think enough thought had been put into the decision about Willow Lane busing, asking if the traffic impact study being used to guide this decision was even conducted recently enough to be viable.

“There have been a lot of new developments in the area and the traffic counts are probably actually much higher,” said Muller, who described himself as a Willow Lane parent. “Yeah, you save $60,000 on busing, but you have no plan for how the kids are going to be managed, no plan to get the kids into the school.

“How are you going to get the 320 additional cars in and out of there?” he asked. “This just seems like a knee jerk reaction to cut $60,000. I ask that you take another look at it and really dive into the details before you make this decision.”

Mullers comments, like those of the half dozen others who addressed the board, were met with audience applause.

Willow Lane busing was cut as part of a .

Mariella Savidge July 10, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Realities being what they are, Michelle, what do you think is the way to go from here?
Emmaus Mom July 10, 2012 at 01:53 PM
I still don't understand why it's OK in everyone's mind for Lincoln and Jefferson kids to walk to school....many of them don't have "helicopter" parents who walk them to and from school everyday. They manage to walk to school in all types of weather and make it there safely. Seems like a double standard for the LM kids vs. the boro kids.
Thomas July 10, 2012 at 01:53 PM
This is ridiculous. Not for the lack of planning, but the argument of no buses, so 320 cars are the solution? How about you walk? Safety? How about educating your children to not approach strangers. Seriously, it's within 1.5 miles. Or are your children fat? If not, they will be.
Jayden July 10, 2012 at 02:18 PM
In the state of PA, schools are NOT required to provide transportation to students except for those with Disabilites. THIS IS THE LAW!! What happens when the bus company goes on strike? Remember what happened a few years ago? The bus company is a privately owned company and is NOT run by the school district. The school district pays First Student to provide the transportation as a convenience. They are not required to have public transportation. It was in the news not to long ago that the East Penn Superintendent of Schools wanted to cut all bus services because the state was cutting funds. "Seidenberger said that he knows parents will be upset to learn that the district would consider cutting student bus service down the road" http://emmaus.patch.com/articles/east-penn-may-look-at-cutting-student-buses-in-2013-2014
Ron Beitler July 10, 2012 at 02:26 PM
60,000 is the figure for willow lane. But you take the figure saved from ALL walking neighborhoods it's substantial. My only point of concern is creating a double standard between the boroughs and the townships. It's my understanding Emmaus, Alburtis and Macungie all have walkers. (Macungie did when I went to school) I do agree however that this stuff should have been figured out quicker. It's my understanding many who live further out closer to the 1.5 range will receive exceptions. I haven't heard anything yet about how those exceptions would be granted and whats the protocol.
Ron Beitler July 10, 2012 at 02:28 PM
@Emmaus mom I share this concern. A double standard would be very unfair. There are situations in the township where there are simply not safe routes and these need to be clearly addressed ASAP. But in general, if we ask borough residents to walk we should ask township residents who live within a reasonable distance to do the same.
Michelle Bartolomei July 10, 2012 at 02:35 PM
It IS a safety issue, but it's not about educating children not to approach strangers -- mine know that full well, thank you very much. However, for Willow, almost all walking students would be crossing at least one busy road (2 of which have 4-way stop intersections that NO ONE knows how to negotiate), and then crossing 2 active, busy driveways and parking lots to just reach the building. We are talking busy roads and too many cars. Did you know that almost 400 children a year are killed walking to school? And did you know that the vast majority of those are killed by cars driven by parents driving *their* kids to school? Sorry ... I've already lived through the death of one of my children. I'm not risking the lives of the other two -- and certainly not because the school district couldn't get its act together over the course of THREE YEARS time. The lack of planning in this case IS ridiculous. THREE YEARS to put a plan in place and they've done nothing ... why is it now being done in the 11th hour? Their lack of planning in this case is unconscionable. If Willow is going to be a walking school, so be it. But, please, let's do it RIGHT. Not scrambling at the last minute. And not to save $60,000.
Ron Beitler July 10, 2012 at 02:48 PM
@ Michelle, I don't mean to be callous but it's important to point out... "NHTSA data indicate 8,000 children injured in school bus crashes annually. The American Academy of Pediatrics, however, reports that 17,000 children seek treatment in hospital emergency rooms due to school bus-related accidents. " My point is simply this....there is danger for kids anytime they walk out the front door. . . This is a hot button issue. Parents are RIGHTLY concerned. But we have to see big picture. I agree with you on the 4 way stop. The only acceptable solution is crossing guards. (My understanding these are already lined up). I'm on the record stating a signal will make this less safe. And again statistics, signals where they aren't needed (This intersection is only busy twice a day 4 of 24 hours a day) create a more dangerous situation for kids. It's a fact Red Light running is the #1 cause of accidents. A signal turns green and cars go, light is yellow people try to speed up.... People are trained to do so. With a crossing guard, the guard stays in the street until all children have cross. This is by far the safest solution and has been working for years in the boroughs. Futher a signal will cost nearly a million dollars (source LMT 2010 traffic study) I also 100% agree with you that the plan to put this all in place should be ready PRIOR to the vote. If the administration knew this was a possibility, then why wasnt this plan ready to go?
Ron Beitler July 10, 2012 at 02:51 PM
And again to be clear, your 100% right on being angry about perceived last minute-ness of getting out the action plan of this whole thing. If this was known (and it was) that this was going to be voted on and a possibility, this information should have been communicated to parents months ago. Everyone should have known Willow was to eventually go walking within X distance. But the actual safety and implementation plan should have been completed prior to the vote.
taxed-enough July 10, 2012 at 03:12 PM
From a previous news coverage and board meetings, it is my understanding that Wescosville has no walking students, Shoemaker has no walking students, Macungie has no walking students, and Alburtis has walking students, but they do not have to walk 1.5 miles (just a much shorter walking distance for Alburtis). Also, where are the areas in Emmaus that walk 1.5 miles? I am not aware of a street in Emmaus that currently walks 1.5 miles, but could anyone share which street in Emmaus walks 1.5 miles currently? Any additional information would be appreciated from the Patch or comments. There should be no double standard. We all pay taxes and elect school board members. If Emmaus would like bus service, there is certainly a way to get it through school board elections, and participating at school board meetings. Obviously, the majority of the school board wants to eliminate this transportation, and Julian Stolz is leading the fight for student safety, but he is outnumbered by the other votes on the board at this time.
Steve Miller July 10, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Its awfully nice of them they cant find the 60k to bus our kids for their safety but they have a close door meeting to discuss raises for non union contracted employees meaning administration. Maybe they should make that meeting public and tell us as parents why they dont care about safety but care about adding money to their pockets.
Lower Mac Resident July 10, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Walking to school is not the issue, it's the fact that it's not a SAFE walk for this particular school. Willow has over 700 students and is located on a busy straightaway - neither are conducive to a safe walking environment for students of that age.
Ron Beitler July 10, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Just submitted a question regarding total number of walkers and what schools. I may have been incorrect saying that Alburtis and Macungie students walk. I was going off when I went to school. . . now this was over a decade ago (geesh I'm gettin old) - I'll post when I get this information.
Ron Beitler July 10, 2012 at 03:36 PM
@TE - I might have been incorrect stating Macungie residents do. I know they used to... when I went to school (long time ago) I just emailed district asking for total number and which schools have walkers. I'm curious. Will post when I get response. I also just followed up with the furthest distance borough residents walk. FYI
Richard Gilbert July 10, 2012 at 03:39 PM
The other issue not mention, and a serious one, is the weight of the backpacks the children are carrying. As an adult I would not want to carry one of those for 1.5 miles. The children will develop back and shoulder problems, ask your pediatrician. Also, the lockers in school will not accomodate the roller type packs, so much for planning a walking school. Are the people making these decisions so consumed with $60K that they have lost all their common sense?
Richard Gilbert July 10, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Does anyone know if the $60K is a net figure? Have the wages for the crossing guards been factored in? If not, the savings will be smaller than $60K.
Ron Beitler July 10, 2012 at 07:37 PM
@richard - in Emmaus it's volunteers. The borough pays for supplies (signs vests ect) 1000-1500
Ron Beitler July 10, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Per year..
tamarya July 11, 2012 at 12:41 AM
I would say keep the buses at this point.
LMT parent July 11, 2012 at 01:47 AM
If there are crossing guards and side walks, what is the problem???? I agree, the Lincoln, Jefferson, and some Alburtis Elementary kids walk. Teach your kids about street smarts, have the neighborhood kids walk together. The fact is, the neighborhoods you are talking about were shoemaker kids before they were willow lane and the shoemaker kids never had to walk....parents need to teach them how to stay on the sidewalk, not clown around, and listen to the crossing guards....geez....shouldn't be a safety issue if the kids learn how to navigate safely...it's a life skill. Extra cars dropping them off are a result of spoiled parents who don't want to walk their kids to school....no wonder kids are over weight. Parents be an example and teach your kids.
seriousthinking July 11, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Wow, I guess it is such a crime that the parents are genuinely concerned about the welfare of our children. Some people can not get passed the subject that our kids do not walk to school. Well there is so much more involved than just the "walking". We have every right to have a set plan in place already for our children to arrive to school safely. All the people on here whose kids go to Jefferson and other schools would be singing the same tune if their children walked but did not have a plan to keep them safe too. They may have "planned" on this school to be a walking school but they certainly did not design it to be. Now we will wait again until August, two weeks prior to school, to see what the new plans are for our children. And @ LMT parent...how do you know what us parents have taught our kids. My children know about strangers and what not to do. I dont see why you and others are so passionately concerned about how we raise our children and if we all choose to drive them its is our business NOT yours. Do you pay for our mortgages and gas for our cars?
Faith Ziegler July 11, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Other school & districts allow elementary students to walk 1.5 miles. As long as there are crossing guards at the intersections I see no problem with that. Kids need the exercise they are getting way to heavy for a healthy life.
Steve Godusky July 12, 2012 at 01:25 AM
Good point Faith. Let the people whining about their poor children walking to school pay for the bus. Why should we all pay. My gut feeling is the school board will break down and give in to their whining. You know, grease the squeaky wheel.
careless fills July 12, 2012 at 01:33 AM
would a curved road be safer than a "straightaway"?
Emmaus Mom July 12, 2012 at 01:51 AM
I believe there are two crossing guards near Jefferson and a teacher posted in front of the building. Lincoln definitely has three and maybe four crossing guards. There is no "plan" for keeping the kids safe. They walk to school and cross a lot more streets than those manned by crossing guards. Have you ever driven down Harrison Street around 8:30am or 3:30pm? The kids are helped across the busy Harrison intersections by a VOLUNTEER crossing guard. They are on their own the rest of the way. Many kids walk from Colonial Crest apartments and are crossing 5-6-7 streets. And, yes, that includes the intersection of Harrison and Macungie...I don't hear their parents complaining.
Really? July 12, 2012 at 02:23 AM
Really Thomas? You have resorted to calling children "Fat"???? Amazing....like you are any better then the "fat" kids. Glad to see you have the children's best interest in mind.
careless fills July 12, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Safety is paramount. Even Stolz recognizes this. The administration and the rest of the school board would be foolish not to come to the same conclsuion. The only good that will come out of this little escapade is that when the next budget is developed, EPSD will discover that it will have pelenty of fund balance after spending $60,000 from the reserve, and in the process that it's taxpayers will have avoided an additional, unnecessary 0.04 mill increase!
LMTnative July 12, 2012 at 03:51 PM
This is a double standard! The kids at Lincoln and Jefferson can walk to school. However the entitled folks near Willow think they are too good for it. Wake up people, you're not that special.
Joyce12 September 19, 2012 at 03:40 PM
One point that has not been made is that the difference between walking to Lincoln or Jefferson and walking to Willow Lane is sidewalks. I teach a class at Willow Lane in the early afternoon and I would not want to be walking on those roads. Drivers drive as though they are late for their last meal. There is a lot more traffic on all of the surrounding roads than you would think. Where would the kids walk safely?
Ron Beitler September 19, 2012 at 03:45 PM
I've done a survey of walking paths. Including the bike paths along willow and saurkraut. Almost all the developments that have been listed can walk safely. Now there ARE exceptions. (willows lane into the village of East Texas, down Mill Creek Rd., Across Brookside.) But the core surrounding Saurkraut and Willow is completely walkable. In fact safer then borough because bike paths are offset off the road an average of 10 foot. NOW we NEED crossing guards and better cross walk paintings. And while I do not support a stop light at that intersection, I do support a flashing light crosswalk like is installed in Downtown Macungie. This + Human guards during school walking times.

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