No busing seen for Westside Elementary

       None of the students attending the new Westside Elementary School would be bused in, according to information presented at the April 15 District 11 Board of Education meeting.
       This information emerged during a roughly three-hour work session on proposed boundary changes that followed a public hearing. A final board decision is scheduled at its meeting Wednesday, April 23. The need for boundary changes was prompted by the board's approving a School Utilization Plan in February that included closures of four Westside schools after this year and creation of a new elementary inside the West Middle School building in August.
       Temporarily called Westside Elementary, it will be composed of students from three schools that will close after this year - Buena Vista, Washington and Whittier.
       Studies by district Transportation Director Bill Bair found that no students within the proposed boundaries of Westside Elementary live more than 1.5-miles away. That's the distance “rubric,” established by the school board seven years ago, that is used district-wide in busing decisions, Bair said.
       Other factors that weigh into the rubric are sidewalk safety or having to cross major streets. In the latter regard, the district plans to work with the city to provide crossing guards at certain intersections on Colorado Avenue, Bair said.
       The busing issue was raised by board member Charles Bobbitt. “Rubrics are great,” he said, “but we're asking this neighborhood [the Westside] to do more than any others.” He mentioned narrow streets and short blocks (meaning more streets to cross), plus areas he's observed near a hill or that lack a sidewalk. “The Westside is not like the downtown,” he said. “I don't think you can apply your standard as easily there as in other areas.”
       No vote was taken on the matter, but a board consensus indicated a preference not to make Westside Elementary a geographic exception to its rubric.
       The 1.5-mile distance for elementary students is shorter than some districts elsewhere, Bair said, adding that to shorten it to perhaps 1 mile, district-wide, would “significantly increase” busing costs.
       The district's other distance rules are 2 miles for middle schoolers and 2 ½ for high schoolers.
       West Middle School students living south of Highway 24 will continue to be bussed in, Bair said.
       Some board members noted that walking a fair distance to school was something they had done as children. “It's not that big a sacrifice,” board member Jan Tanner said.
       Frank Bernhard, District 11's executive director of Transportation, Facilities and Security, offered a “silver lining” option, at least for students at the east end of the Westside Elementary attendance area - noting that they have the opportunity to permit into the Montessori program (currently at Buena Vista) that will be put into the nearby Washington facility.
       No citizen comments specifically regarding Westside boundaries were made at the public hearing.

Westside Pioneer article