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5 Things to Know About Willow Lane Busing

East Penn School Board makes no progress on Willow Lane busing issue.

For the most part Monday night’s meeting of the East Penn Board of School Directors was all about Willow Lane Elementary School busing, but no definitive action was taken nor was any progress made.

1. A motion to approve the site improvements for Willow Lane Elementary School, including traffic patterns, pavement striping, swing arm gates and enhancements to walking paths, was set aside until the board’s next meeting on March 11 to be sure that all interested community members have sufficient time to review the suggested improvements.

2. The school board meeting opened with a handful of Willow Lane parents addressing the board during the public comment portion, including Willow Lane parent Susan Coenen, who chastised the administration for doing things “backwards” trying to move forward with any sort of site improvements at Willow Lane without first looking at the process of picking up and dropping off kids at the school. 

3. East Penn School District will go before the Lower Macungie Township Planning and Zoning Committee on March 14 looking for approval of the site improvements presented by district engineer Paul Szewczak of Liberty Engineering at Monday night’s school board meeting. Superintendent Thomas Seidenberger emphasized that he would rather go to Lower Macungie officials with a plan approved by the board. The plan will come up for another vote at the March 11 school board meeting.
 
4. Seidenberger said a parent committee, led by Willow Lane Principal Anthony Moyer, will address four main topics: traffic before school, traffic after school, traffic during bad weather and the organization of a "walking bus." A walking bus is a concept created by PennDOT and would simply mean a parent would walk a group of children to school, according to School Director Francee Fuller.
 
5. Julian Stolz withdrew a motion directing the district administration to form a committee comprising “but not necessarily limited to, a representative or representatives from the East Penn School Board, members of the administrations, parental representatives from the Willow Lane School who shall not be employees of nor closely related to employees of the East Penn School District and a representative or representatives from the Lower Macungie Township Board of Commissioners….” He will reintroduce the motion after it’s determined how the committee he is suggesting will work with or fit in with the committee to be headed by principal Moyer.

JulianS February 26, 2013 at 07:17 AM
Actually, I will reintroduce the motion IF the administration authorized committee turns out to be a "talking at parents" rather than "talking TO parents" affair. It would have been nice to get all concerned parties in the same room at the same time but what is most important is that parents are given the opportunity to have their voices heard (not patronized, actually listened to).
Emmaus Mom February 26, 2013 at 04:02 PM
Shouldn't that be "talking WITH parents"? And, yet again, what about the borough kids?? There are many intersections in the borough of Emmaus without four way stops and poor visibility. Have you ever tried to cross at the intersection of Fifth and North Street? That's no easy task.
taxed-enough February 26, 2013 at 04:35 PM
Emmaus Mom, if you have a safety concern it might be best for you and like-minded parents to bring it up at school board meetings. That is what the Willow Lane parents are doing. I completely understand that you may have a safety concern. The school board meetings are the time to voice your concerns loudly and publicly, and also try to organize your community to do the same. These school board members are our elected representatives. We elect them to address our concerns. The squeaky wheel often gets the oil, and if you don't think they are responding to concerns that are voiced loudly and publicly, we can vote them out, and should. However, Julian is one of the few board members that are being very responsive to parent concerns for safety, and I must say that he is one of the few board members who is on the side of students and parents on this issue. So, this comment is a huge "Thank you" to Julian. Please if you have safety concerns for your community, please voice them loudly and publicly at board meetings, organize like-minded parents, and help to work to elect board members who respond to parents' concerns. That is what the Willow Lane parents are trying to do, and they are NOT asking for special treatment but safety for ALL student transportation. You know the details of your neighborhood. With a budget of over $120,000,000.00 per year we should be able to get ALL students to school safely, and that should be a priority over raises for administration.
Matt L. February 26, 2013 at 04:41 PM
Can someone please tell me about what is inherently dangerous about parents having to be responsible for getting their kids to school? Why is that dangerous? No one has to walk. If they feel it's "dangerous" (nation of.....) then they are more then welcome to drive them to school in the comfort and safety of their own vehicles. What's "unfair" is taxpayers paying for the luxury of busing. Busing is not a right. Thats what's unfair. What's unfair is school taxes going up every single year. I thought Julian looked out for the taxpayers. Just another politician doing whatever he can to forward an agenda. Again, no one is forcing kids to walk to school. We're forcing parents to take responsibility for their kids. Taxpayers are responsible for providing a public education not shuttling kids from their doorsteps.
taxed-enough February 26, 2013 at 04:41 PM
Emmaus Mom, if you have a safety concern it might be best for you and like-minded parents to bring it up at school board meetings. That is what the Willow Lane parents are doing. I completely understand that you may have a safety concern. The school board meetings are the time to voice your concerns loudly and publicly, and also try to organize your community to do the same. These school board members are our elected representatives. We elect them to address our concerns. The squeaky wheel often gets the oil, and if you don't think they are responding to concerns that are voiced loudly and publicly, we can vote them out, and should. However, Julian is one of the few board members that are being very responsive to parent concerns for safety, and I must say that he is one of the few board members who is on the side of students and parents on this issue. So, this comment is a huge "Thank you" to Julian. Please if you have safety concerns for your community, please voice them loudly and publicly at board meetings, organize like-minded parents, and help to work to elect board members who respond to parents' concerns. That is what the Willow Lane parents are trying to do, and they are NOT asking for special treatment but safety for ALL student transportation. You know the details of your neighborhood. With a budget of over $120,000,000.00 per year we should be able to get ALL students to school safely, and that should be a priority over raises for administration.
Matt L. February 26, 2013 at 05:00 PM
Why is requiring parents to drive their kids to school a safety issue? No one has to walk. Anyone can drive their kids. Why is parental responsibility a safety issue. Please explain?
taxed-enough February 26, 2013 at 05:30 PM
Matt, if you think that by cutting off these Willow Lane buses, your property taxes are going down, you are naive. The school board will just spend that money on something else. The school board has been trying to cut off bus service to Willow Lane for years and is pretty obsessed with it, but they never said it would translate into decreasing anyone's property taxes. They have approved substantial raises for administration during the same time period that they are working so hard to cut off buses for elementary students. We pay taxes at very high rates, and parents have input into where the money is spent. It is a huge pie with a budget of over $120,000,000.00 per year. Why should parents not have input into where the money is spent? If you think THIS school board is going to lower your property taxes, it is not going to happen. It is usually a 6- 3 vote which results in raising property taxes every year, and Julian is consistently opposed to the property tax increases, So, if you have a beef with your taxes Julian is not the one to complain about. We should complain about the expenses like paying for airplane tickets to fly our personnel to China, airfare to Arizona, airfare to California, airfare to Florida, etc. for "training." If we need to cut off transportation, we should cut off transportation to China, Florida, Arizona, and California first in my opinion. The school board never brings up these expenses as a issue, notice that?
Matt L. February 26, 2013 at 05:41 PM
It won't lower them alone. I'm not naive. But it will play a small part in hopefully stabilizing and stopping them from rising again. It's one of 100 things that need to be addressed which includes the 10,000 lb gorilla the pension time bomb. But back to my question, I ask again. Why is requiring parents to drive their kids to school a safety issue? No one is being forced to walk. Anyone can drive their kids or accompany there kids. Why is parental responsibility a safety issue. Please explain? Why is driving your kid to school in a car a safety issue? Why should I have to pay for what is essentially a convenience?
ted.dobracki February 26, 2013 at 05:52 PM
People should realize that the site improvements to improve traffic flow is untenable today and something similar needs to be done no matter what the decision will be concerning Willow Lane bussing. (Grammar police: I prefer the double-s spelling as being more logical, but both ways are correct!) This was made clear at the previous (2/12) school board meeting, when the superintendent presented data that showed that approximately a hundred cars were showing up to drop or pickup children NOW, in spite of nearly everyone being bussed. This would only get worse if there were fewer busses and more cars. Something needs to be done with the traffic flow, even holding the status quo on bussing. No one should complain about a "lack of progress" on approving the project yet since giving the design a better review IS progress and building something that won't work isn't. It's obvious that the original design wasn't visionary enough; so let's not do that again. The actual construction will be done over the summer, so time now is probably not of the essence, except perhaps to co-ordinate with the LMT upgrades design.
bigmomma February 26, 2013 at 06:20 PM
Kids living outside Emmaus borough who are bussed have to walk to their bus stops on Vera Cruz road which has no sidewalks and heavy truck traffic. Although some parents drive their kids to a stop(like myself), others don't have a car and walk Vera Cruz road. I wish these Willow Lane parents would suck it up and accept the intended plans for it to be a no bussing school. So many think their entitled to have it their way or no way. Get over yourselves already.
enraged February 26, 2013 at 06:23 PM
@Matt L - Because the cars are already stacked for half a mile on the connecting roads, and now the students are being told they need to walk. Add in the walkers, and the fire department adjacent to the school - and we have a recipe for disaster. The children require busses - at least those that live more than 0.75 miles away. There are 5 or 6 other elementary schools in the district, and only 41 students over 0.75 miles are 'deemed' walkers. The plan proposed would have 341 Willow Lane students walking through many intersections with several 4 way stops - some up to 1.5 miles. No one else is really doing that in the district today. Parents have not been engaged in any planning - nor has their been a townhall meeting to address the many concerns of parents presented at multiple school board meetings. This is what needs to happen. The answer is not to just tell parents to drive their kids to school. That is not an option. While I understand that bussing is a privilege and not a right, let's be fair and realistic. These are small kids.
Ron Beitler February 26, 2013 at 06:35 PM
@Ted - You hit the nail on the head. The township and on-site improvements are long overdue REGARDLESS of the current walking/driving proposed changes. I have not gotten a good answer from the township why the school was allowed to open at all without a single sign alerting motorists that a school is in the vicinity. Not one single sign. That IMO represents the bare minimum. And your right lack of any coherent vision is a problem on many township development projects. Our version of planning is design standards window dressing. I don't fault our planner, I fault our leaders. Even the "smart growth" review commissioners have been crowing about is largely window dressing. It's certainly not my version of smart growth. Little to nothing in the plan addresses increasing traffic/congestion concerns. How do we pay for police protection moving forward. How we preserve land in a way that compensates landowners. How we keep enrollment levels at the school district stable. How we ensure when we give away upzoning to developers the community isn't left holding the bag. Sorry I got off on a tangent but but you hit the nail on the head. And this one problem is representative of so many similar issues. During the planning process for this school (at which it was made clear it was eventually going to be walking) there was no creativity, no vision and a lack of accountability for the most basic of safety features. In two words. Planning Failure.
taxed-enough February 26, 2013 at 06:47 PM
Matt, legally the school district does not have to provide buses for any students at all. So, you are saying to make the parents drive kids to school, right? So, if I understand your argument, then, are you saying to cut off all buses to everyone? If parents have to drive 1.5 miles to take students to school, then should parents who live 1.6 miles away have to drive and two miles away? (now special education might be a different situation legally) But, legally the school district can cut off everyone's transportation and require all of us to drive or walk to school even from five miles away, etc. Is that what you are saying? And legally, the school district could set up a East Penn cyber school and we could all learn on our home computers, if I understand correctly, and shut down all of these school buildings so no transportation is needed? Well, I could see your argument, I guess, and cut off all transportation for all athletes and stop paying employees mileage for training, etc. Is that what you are saying, stop all transportation for everyone? Because it is my understanding that legally it can be done. But, to have all parents paying property taxes, and only transportation for some students, well I don't see it as a valid argument if the distance is actually too far to walk.
Emmaus Mom February 26, 2013 at 07:00 PM
Good point. I remember "back in the day" there was a bus stop at the corner of Golf Cirlce and Riverbend Road. No sidewalks close to that area. I wonder how many kids are walking to bus stops without sidewalks and proper signage?? I know for a fact that near Jefferson there is no signage for a speed limit in a school zone. Lots of cars go whizzing by there everyday.
Matt L. February 26, 2013 at 07:03 PM
State reimburses district for costs 1.5 and greater. It's not an arbitrary number. Problem with that? Take it up with your state rep. Never gonna change though. If anything the big gob-ment subsidy will someday fade away. Then look out! Then we'll have crippling budget problems if we still bus. Then you are talking immediate major property tax increases. Yes. User fees for athlete transportation. Absolutely.
tamarya February 26, 2013 at 08:31 PM
Matt are you not with it, your taxes will still pay for those buses and now the congestion of personal vehicles will now back traffic in that area.
Sheriffchris February 26, 2013 at 09:00 PM
What ever happened to the times when it was the parents responsibility to get thier children to the school for a free education ....
taxed-enough February 26, 2013 at 09:21 PM
Where are you getting the information that the state reimburses for all transportation costs 1.5 miles and greater? I thought it was a formula and only a portion was reimbursed.
ted.dobracki February 26, 2013 at 09:25 PM
"Busing" proponents outumber "bussing" proponents 4-3 here at this time. FYI, AP style guide prefers "busing" and considers "bussing" to be kissing.
Matt L. February 26, 2013 at 09:40 PM
Both cite that >1.5 miles the state reimburses bus costs.
Matt L. February 26, 2013 at 09:41 PM
A quick google search of some key words and you will find many articles from all over the state about this very same issue. Here are two I've found quickly on my phone: http://triblive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/westmoreland/s_762146.html#axzz2M2jIhUHR http://www.timesobserver.com/page/content.detail/id/561548/District-saving--20-000-a-month-on-transportation.html?nav=5006 This quick exercise also demonstrates that it isn't just our "mean old school directors" who are "forcing kindergarteners to walk alone unattended to school across a highway" but you will see that all over the state, many districts are using the exact same strategy to reign in budgets. EPSD is not unique.
Mike S February 27, 2013 at 12:37 AM
charge parents inside the walking zoen extra if they want busing, case closed.
Mike S February 27, 2013 at 12:40 AM
let the kids walk and get some exercise, too many fattys in school nowadays. too many sheltered in their homes on the naughty net and playing xbox getting fat WALK and exercise
ted.dobracki February 27, 2013 at 02:18 AM
Since EPSD is a relatively wealthy district with a low aid ratio, it gets reimbursed for only about one quarter of its eligible costs.
taxed-enough February 27, 2013 at 07:15 PM
Exactly, there is a formula regarding the state reimbursing for transportation over 1.5 miles, as I have heard at school board meetings and found online. The formula is so complicated that most newspaper articles don't get into that much detail, and it can't be explained here. Our school district does not get reimbursed dollar for dollar for students that live more than 1.5 miles from a school. Suffice it to say, that we pay millions to bus kids, and the Willow Lane parents pay property taxes too. So, the Willow Lane parents help pay to bus all the other students, while the Willow Lane parents are being told to walk 1.5 miles to school, which is not a feasible walking distance for a five year old. One parent suggested to have a maximum of .75 miles like other school boards have done which would apply to all of our elementary schools. This is called OPTION #2. There are very few walkers in our district that are walking over .75 mile to school (41 students in the entire district according to the study). It would cost nothing to bus those 41 students since there is room on existing buses. At Willow Lane, they are proposing to have 341 students walk over .75 miles. That is too far to be reasonable in my opinion. If a parent actually lets their five year old walk to school 1.5 miles as the school board is suggesting, I think they would get arrested for child endangerment.
Jeff Brosky April 12, 2013 at 08:03 PM
i wa driving past willow lane school the other day and about 100 kids and several parents or gym instruters were walking with he kids crossed the street into the development in a big circle no buses in site if the kids can ealk or jog into the development why in gods name do we need buses???

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