The Oregon school board will continue to “tweak” the number of stops made by the new bus shuttle providing transportation to Clay High School students.
“The route itself was a beginning point,” P.J. Kapfhammer, who was elected to the school board last November, said on Wednesday. “We’re still tweaking it.”
The shuttle, which started on Jan. 10, makes 12 stops throughout the district. High school students had previously been without bus service since it was eliminated by the school board last year to cut expenses. Angry parents had expressed concerns to school officials about their children having to walk to and from school if they could not make arrangements for transportation. Some parents also said they were late getting to work after dropping their children off at school.
Dean Sandwisch, director of business affairs in the Oregon City Schools District, said at a school board meeting on Jan. 17 that 106 students used the shuttle on the morning of Jan. 10, and 109 used it that evening.
“And since that time, we’ve been averaging 120 riders every day,” he said. “The maximum that we had is 170. And that’s the nature of high school transportation. It is all over the board. We anticipate when spring sports arrive, and there’s more participation in track, we’re going to see a little decline as well.”
“Dean has been working very closely with Terry Huss, our transportation supervisor, to make sure we got off to a good start,” Dr. Mike Zalar, superintendent of the Oregon City Schools District, said at the meeting.
Sandwisch said the number of stops the shuttle would make was based on a survey of students who said they would use the shuttle.
“That survey involved three questions: How do you currently get to school, where do you live, and would you ride a limited shuttle if offered?” said Sandwisch. “That’s the information we collected from every student from the high school. From that, we gathered basic information of where the stops would be and how many students would indeed use the shuttle service. From that information, Terry and I put together a packet that went out to parents. We intended to make 10 different stops, and we put that in the packet. Based on the responses we got back, we added two more stops in the Starr-Fassett area. From that point, we sent letters home saying exactly where the stops would be.”
Buses made between 200-300 stops for 500 high school students before full-service transportation was eliminated last year.
Kapfhammer and new board member Jeff Ziviski want to expand the number of stops made by the new shuttle service. Both had been critical during their campaigns that busing had been eliminated, particularly after the board later voted to give raises to administrators in the district. The board then agreed to provide limited transportation to high school students, saying the district’s finances had improved enough to provide the bus shuttle.
Ziviski had asked Sandwisch at the meeting if the district sought feedback from parents regarding the shuttle.
The district has received mostly positive feedback, said Sandwisch.
“The drivers report that the parents and the students are very appreciative. The phone calls we’ve had are very appreciative. We’ve had new people who have signed up for shuttles since that point. I agree that we can tweak a couple more stops,” said Sandwisch.
“We do have some areas that if we were to add another stop, we would run out of capacity on our buses,” said Sandwisch. “I think the tweaking we’re talking about is probably more along the lake, and in Harbor View. I can see maybe a couple of additional stops. So there’s room for improvement.”
Kapfhammer said he thought the number of students who would eventually want to use the shuttle will be higher.
“I think it’s weather driven right now. I think the numbers are going to go up because of the weather rather than what’s going on around the school,” he said.
Ziviski wanted to know if there was any negative feedback from the drivers and parents.
“We had 500 students and over 300 stops previous to this,” said Sandwisch. “When we go to 12 stops, there’s going to be dissatisfaction. There was dissatisfaction when we had 300 stops. The dissatisfaction was that they would have liked a stop, for example, on Starr Extension.”
Last Wednesday, Kapfhammer said he met with Sandwisch and they added two more stops to the schedule.
“There are some places we can’t get to. But there are other places that we can,” said Kapfhammer.
The additional stops are in Harbor View and Bono, according to Kapfhammer.
Ziviski said parents who would like to discuss their concerns regarding the service can speak at the next school board meeting on Jan. 21 at 6 p.m. in the media center at Clay High School.
The cost to the district for the shuttle service for the remainder of the year is $50,000. For the next full year, it will cost $100,000.