In the wake of busing cuts in the Lakota Local School District, officials are taking additional steps to improve safety for students who get to school in private vehicles or on foot or bicycles.
The steps also are aimed at reducing traffic congestion around some schools, which has increased because thousands of pupils are now being driven to school in private vehicles due to busing cuts.
The School District is working with West Chester and Liberty townships as well as Butler County on these initiatives and more:
- Training and expanding the number of crossing guards.
- Developing recommended routes to each school – with safety in mind -- for students who ride bicycles or walk.
- Increasing and improving traffic signs and signals near schools.
- Training students to be safe as they walk or bike to school.
- Releasing students who walk home from school after students who are picked up in cars.
- Placing speed-detection signs in areas in Liberty Township with heavy pedestrian and vehicular traffic to increase drivers' awareness of their speed.
- Arranging for police and sheriff's deputies to direct traffic near eight schools, instead of school staff doing so. In West Chester, the schools are Adena Elementary, Freedom Elementary, Endeavor Elementary, Union Elementary and Heritage Elementary. In Liberty, the schools are East High School, Independence Elementary and Woodland Elementary.
On Friday, District officials discussed those measures with officials from the township administrations, the West Chester police, the Butler County Sheriff and the Butler County Engineer.
The district had scheduled the meeting and taken other steps before a parent hit a Cherokee Elementary School teacher last with his car after dropping off his child. The district believes the incident was isolated, caused by one parent's inappropriate conduct. The parent has been charged with negligent assault and reckless operation.
"The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and safety protocols on the school grounds, especially as children and all visitors are entering and exiting, will be enforced," Lakota Superintendent Karen Mantia said.
The teacher, who was helping to direct cars, children and parents, suffered a broken wrist and a scrape on his leg. He missed two days of work. The car also bumped into a custodian, who was not hurt.
Lakota has developed procedures for dropping off and picking up students since budget cuts forced the School Board to cut back on busing. Two failed tax levies and state funding decreases caused the budget cuts. Busing is no longer available to students who live within two miles of their elementary and junior high schools. For the district's high schools, busing is no longer available to any students.
Here are some of the safety tips the district recommends during drop-off and pick-up times:
- No talking or texting on cell phones while in the school lot.
- On rainy days, rain ponchos are a safer choice than umbrellas.
- At no time should any child walk across the parking lot by themselves.
- Please keep eyes ahead while exiting the drop-off area, rather than watching your child enter the building.