Edwards residents start petition to move school bus stop over safety concerns | VailDaily.com

Edwards residents start petition to move school bus stop over safety concerns

The district is working with families from the Eagle River Village Mobile Home community in Edwards to find a solution

Parents from the Eagle River Village Mobile Home community are advocating for the relocation of a school bus stop, citing safety concerns.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily archive

Families in the Eagle River Village Mobile Home community in Edwards have garnered significant communal support to relocate a school bus stop in the neighborhood.

“¡Dígale al Distrito Escolar del Condado de Eagle que los estudiantes en las trailas de Edwards se merecen algo mucho mejor!” or “Tell the Eagle County School District that the students in the Edwards trailers deserve much better!” reads the petition, which has gathered over 300 signatures advocating for the school district to provide a safer bus stop for the children living in the Edwards trailers.

The community-driven effort started earlier this fall with a group of parents who were concerned about the new distance and path students had to take to catch the school bus after the neighborhood’s previous mountainside bus stop was taken away, according to Judith Olivas, one of the neighborhood’s residents and leaders of the effort.

During previous school years, the bus had picked up Edwards Elementary School students from the ECO Transit bus stop. Starting this fall, however, this bus stop was moved and now students from the mobile home community are having to walk, along Highway 6 up to a stop located near the 6 West Apartments, Olivas said.

According to Eagle County Schools, the mountainside stop transports approximately 60 students to the elementary school in the morning via one bus and approximately 110 students back to the community from the park in the afternoon via two buses.

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Sandy Farrell, the school district’s chief operations officer, said that the consolidation of bus routes has been occurring over the past three years as a result of the bus driver shortage.

“The stop location for the mountainside of the park has historically been on Highway 6. Per Colorado State Patrol and the Colorado Department of Education, the bus is not allowed to stop on Highway 6 without pulling the red stop sign that requires drivers going east and west to stop,” Farrell said. “This was creating a delay in traffic flow in both directions of up to a half hour, including other school buses. Drivers stuck in traffic continually run the red light and have even tried to pass the bus along the right side where students are loading, creating a huge safety issue.”

Additionally, Farrell said that the stop could not be moved into the mobile home community “as there is no exit from the park for a school bus and not enough room to turn around or drive through the park, and backing a bus with people and students around is against CDE regulations.”

This particular stop is also in a unique situation due to its proximity to the school itself, Farrell said.

“ECSD policy is to have students that live within one mile walk to school unless they have a hazardous crossing,” she said. “This is the only stop in the district that has school bus transportation within one mile from the school even though there are sidewalks all the way from the mobile home park to the school.  ECSD has elected to offer this service anyway due to the high utilization of the service.”

Farrell said that the decision to relocate the stop to the main entrance at 6 West was in “an effort to increase safety and eliminate traffic delays.”

The new stop, she added “allows the school buses to pull off Highway 6 where students can board the bus safely.”

However, parents in the neighborhood have safety concerns because the children are having to walk alongside the highway a long distance; concerns that are elevated by adverse weather conditions as winter begins, Olivas said.

Once the stop was moved, Olivas said that several parents began driving students either directly to the stop or to the school because the new stop was farther away. However, she said that the apartments no longer allow the parents to park there and many students’ parents could not pick them up or drop them off due to work schedules and other reasons.

All of these concerns, she said “nos motivó a hacer algo por la parada,” or “motivated us to do something for the stop.”

“Entonces dijimos vamos a ver qué podemos hacer para ayudar a nuestros niños,” she said. “So we said: ‘Let’s see what we can do to help our children.’”

Hoping to spur action, Olivas and a group of parents (predominantly mothers) began canvasing and door-knocking in the neighborhood, collecting around 260 signatures in one night, she said.  

The effort drew the attention of Voces Unidas de las Montañas, a Western Slope political organization “aimed at getting Latinos closer to the decision-making table,” as Mateo Lozano, an organizer for the organization, put it.

Lozano and Voces Unidas have been helping the group of families from the mobile home community to find a “platform for them to be able to voice their concerns,” he said.

This effort included helping facilitate conversations between the families and the school and school district as well as putting the petition online for more eyes.

“At this point, we just want to create a line of communication with the school and work with them to resolve the issue,” Lozano said. “We’re really just hoping that the school will be able to understand that and will also be able to give the parents and the community a chance to be able to write letters to the school and be able to express their concerns.”

Voces Unidas President and CEO Alex Sanchez said part of the parents’ concerns included not only those of their children’s safety but also their lack of inclusion in the decision-making process.

“We see that a lot of parents are very passionate, and they want their school district to do better and keep their kids safe,” he said. “Parents are making a call to action to make sure that the school system understands that they believe their children are in danger and they believe that these decisions are being made without parent input and put their kids at risk. And so, they’re calling for the school district to work with them to find a solution that’s going to work for the children and work for the school system.”

According to Farrell, the district previously held a community meeting to discuss the families’ concerns over the stop’s relocation. And this week, on Wednesday, Nov. 30, the elementary school is hosting another meeting for families to express their concerns as well as to discuss the situation with the school and district.

“Finding a solution that works for the students, parents and community is a priority; however, a permanent solution for student safety and improved traffic in this area will take time and require multiple parties to work together for the best resolution,” Farrell said.

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