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Published: Tuesday, 9/29/2009

Problems with Oregon City Schools' busing system being worked out

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Bumps in Oregon City Schools' new bus route system are being smoothed out as drivers make up to three runs each morning and afternoon instead of two to help save money.

The school district switched from a two-tier system, where the middle and high schools started at one time and the four elementaries another, to a more staggered, three-tier system this school year. The change allowed the district to use fewer bus drivers.

Ten drivers, including three who ran partial routes, were laid off as part of an overall plan to slash $3.5 million from the financially troubled district's budget.

In all, about 15 percent of district jobs were eliminated, including about 30 teaching positions.

Four drivers have been recalled this year, however, and transportation employees worked on their off time to make the bus routes flow better, said Dean Sandwisch, director of business affairs.

"They have risen to the occasion," Mr. Sandwisch said. "They really did a great job of making the situation better every day."

Last week, buses were getting to school on time - the district's biggest priority - but some students still were waiting for rides after school, Mr. Sandwisch said.

Still, while those waits were up to 30 minutes at the beginning of the year, they are down to 15 minutes to 20 minutes if at all, he said.

"We're mostly on time," he said.

Oregon Superintendent Mike Zalar told the school board this month that the school year opened well except for the transportation issues.

"We're getting really down to having most of our problems resolved," he said.

A dozen teaching employees also have been recalled, many because other people retired, resigned, or moved into administrative jobs. A few employees were recalled because grant or other funding was secured.

Parents largely have been understanding about bus delays caused by changes in the route system, Mr. Sandwisch said. "It was a nuisance for them as well," he said.


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