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Published: Tuesday, 1/11/2011

Clay High School copes with end to bus service

Jeff Thompson, Clay principal, said that after a chaotic first day back, especially after school, alterations were made that included telling students who normally park in lot A that they could use lots B and E instead to reduce congestion, opening the Corduroy Road exit by the bus garage, and limiting exit directions elsewhere.

Further tweaks will be made, he said.

"It definitely was a learning lesson," said Mr. Thompson, who applauded students and parents for coping with the lack of busing.

He added: "Thank you for making the extra effort -- we know it's a little overwhelming."

Indeed, absenteeism was below normal, and calls about transportation went from six on Jan. 5 to three the next day, Mr. Thompson said.

The Oregon Board of Education voted Nov. 29 to eliminate high school bus service at Clay after the holiday break as part of an effort to cut more than $2.8 million from the budget this school year and next.

The district had warned residents that high school bus service could stop in the next school year if a 5.9-mill emergency levy did not pass in November.

Gregory Reichert II, a junior, waits for automobile traffic to clear before heading home on his bicycle. Gregory Reichert II, a junior, waits for automobile traffic to clear before heading home on his bicycle.

After the tax request failed, however, the board moved up Clay's busing elimination in the face of more state funding cuts and a continued drop in tax revenues. Eliminating high school busing will save the district $226,835 this school year and $442,541 next school year, district figures show.

All together, the district made more than $2.4 million in annual cuts, including laying off 10 custodians.

Among other changes for next school year, seven teaching positions will be eliminated and Wynn Elementary will be closed, which will cut 12 staff positions there.

About 10 percent of Clay High School students ride buses, according to the district.

Sarah Bitter, who has a foster child at Clay, said it took her 20 minutes to pick him up Jan. 5, the first day back to school. She likened the traffic to downtown Toledo after July Fourth festivities.

"There was no direction," Mrs. Bitter said. "It was total chaos."

Part of the problem Jan. 5 was that parents started arriving nearly a half-hour early to pick up their children, and they jammed traffic lanes waiting for them to get out, Mr. Thompson said. To help solve that problem, students have now been told they should try to stagger departures, asking parents to pick them up later if they don't have to leave right at the 2:10 p.m. dismissal, he said.

Mr. Thompson said he will work with students who want to drive snowmobiles or other forms of transportation to school.

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