It was pretty much standing room only at Monday night’s meeting of the East Penn Board as droves of Willow Lane Elementary School parents came to try to convince board members it would be a bad idea to make Willow Lane a “walking school” beginning with the 2013-2014 school year.
Seventeen parents of Willow Lane students addressed the board for nearly one hour during the public comment portion, asking the board to rethink its decision regarding Willow Lane busing and offering to work with the board to come up with a solution that meets both the safety needs of the students and the financial concerns of the school district.
The parents were driven to the board meeting, in part, by a Nov. 27 presentation of a Willow Lane walking study that the parent group claims is based on erroneous and incomplete information. In particular, the parents who spoke said the engineer who pulled together the walking study failed to include two traffic studies conducted by Lower Macungie Township.
Plus, they said that the walking study did not extend far enough from the school, neglecting numerous “dangerous” intersections that Willow Lane students would be expected to walk through in the fall.
The top concerns raised by the Willow Lane parents include:
- The age of the traffic studies being used to make decisions about Willow Lane busing.
- The 1.5 mile walking radius being too far to expect elementary school students to walk. One mother who “tested” her expected walk to school with her two children said it took an hour each way.
- The logistics of the number of cars that will be entering and exiting Willow Lane in the fall since most parents will drive their children to school when busing is eliminated. One parent described the Willow Lane parents who now drive their children to a bus stop a block away from their homes and sit in a idling car waiting for the bus to arrive.
- The lack of school-related signage around Willow Lane.
- The failure of the board to accurately calculate the potential savings related to the elimination of busing, considering the costs related to making the walking route safe, citing a pedestrian bridge that will need to be constructed.
Later in the meeting, East Penn Director of Operations Lynn Glancy shared with the board the details of a comprehensive transportation study that the district is about to undertake. Willow Lane, he said, will be included in that study.
The administration plans to present the results of that study to the board and the public at the board's Feb. 11, 2013 meeting.