Residents, school district work toward solutions for Eagle River Village school bus stop |

Residents, school district work toward solutions for Eagle River Village school bus stop

A permanent solution will require collaboration from district, the mobile home ownership, state agencies and the county

Residents of the Eagle River Village Mobile Home Community in Edwards are working with the Eagle County School District on solutions to safety concerns surrounding a new school bus stop location.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily archive

Earlier this fall, residents of the Eagle River Village Mobile Home community started a petition to relocate a school bus stop over safety concerns.

Now, the Eagle County School District is working with the families — as well as with the Colorado Department of Education, the county, the Colorado Department of Transportation and Ascentia (the owners of Eagle River Village) — to find temporary and permanent solutions for their safety concerns.

These concerns arose after the district relocated the community’s previous bus stop from its location on Highway 6 to a stop at the entrance to 6 West Apartments.

According to Sandy Farrell, the school district’s chief operations officer, the stop’s relocation was part of the district’s ongoing consolidation of bus stops due to its shortage of bus drivers.

In a presentation made to Eagle River Village families at a community meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 20, the district stated that it is currently short 18 bus drivers, which has resulted in the reduction of bus routes from 35 in 2012 to 17 in the current school year.

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“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 previously told the Vail Daily.

“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.”

However, this relocation led to several safety concerns from families living in the Eagle River Village community. According to the Nov. 20 presentation, the district has been receiving up to 20 phone calls a day from residents regarding the stop’s movement.

Some of the concerns included the inability for parents to park at the new bus stop area to pick up or drop off children, concerns about the apartment management threatening to boot vehicles parked in resident-only parking, and concerns about the longer distance that students have to walk to the new stop, especially in winter conditions.

According to the district, 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. It is this high utilization that has led the district to maintain the stop even though it also falls within the district’s 1-mile walk distance policy, which requires students to walk to school if they live within 1 mile.

While parents expressed a desire for the bus stop to be returned to its previous location, there are traffic regulations and safety concerns on the district’s side that are preventing this.

On Thursday, Dec. 8, Susan Miller, a supervisor from the school transportation unit of the Colorado Department of Education, visited the area to get an “in-person view of the situation,” according to a letter from Miller to Tim Owsley, the district’s transportation director.

In the letter, Miller writes that the “previous stop should not have been used,” as it violates several traffic laws regarding school buses, traffic control signals and where students can and cannot cross roadways.

She refers to the situation as “extremely difficult for a school district to be in,” citing the driver shortage, the high volume of students using the stop and “no ideal location for a student pick up.”

“After spending almost an hour looking at the possible options, as of right now during the winter weather conditions and snow plowing, I believe that the school district has chosen an appropriate low-risk location for the multiple bus stops that must be performed,” Miller wrote.

“The winter months make it virtually impossible to do anything immediately, however, I would strongly encourage the district to continue to work with the owners of Eagle Ridge, parents, CDOT, and State Patrol to develop a low-risk bus stop soon somewhere on the park property to permit the buses to get off the roadway, give the residents of the park with school-age students a closer, low-risk bus stop, and permit the traffic on Highway 6 to be move unobstructed.”

A summary of this letter was provided to parents (in Spanish and English) earlier this week, according to the school district’s Assistant Superintendent Melisa Rewold-Thuon.

In looking for paths forward, the district and families convened a meeting on Nov. 20 at Edwards Elementary. Around 28 parents, County Commissioner Matt Scherr, Rewold-Thuon and Voces Unidos de las Montañas Organizer Mateo Lozano attended the meeting.

“Parents just want what they believe is the safest and most convenient route to school and we want to do everything we can to assure that this happens for them within the transportation laws,” Rewold-Thuon said of the meeting.

Lozano, who has been helping the families build a platform to voice their concerns, said that the meeting resulted in a temporary solution as well as a vision for a permanent solution.

The temporary solution was for the district to hire “a chaperone to walk the children to the bus stop safely,” he said.

Rewold-Thuon confirmed that the district posted job positions for a “bus stop monitor/crossing guard” the day after the meeting. The idea was that they would “help monitor the safety of the new stop,” she said.

According to Rewold-Thuon, no one has applied for the position yet but added that as soon as the district can hire someone, this solution will be implemented.

Another short-term solution, requested at the meeting by parents, was for concrete barriers to be placed between the sidewalk and highway on the students’ current walking route to the bus stop. Rewold-Thuon said that this has since been requested of the county.

The meeting also resulted in a possible longer-term solution to find a new location for the bus stop.

“As it stands now, the school is committed to providing a permanent solution where the bus can drive into the neighborhood and come back out the other side of the trailer park. This will require the construction of a bridge/road at the end of the mobile home park,” Lozano said.

Rewold-Thuon said that in moving toward a more permanent solution, the district has met with the Eagle River Village owners as well as CDOT.

“They are very open to possibly making improvements to the neighborhoods in conjunction with other community organizations and CDOT in order for the buses to be able to have stops within the communities as a longer-term solution,” she said.

However, this is a more challenging solution, particularly in terms of time, labor and finances, Rewold-Thuon added.

“If we are able to get another exit from the Eagle River Village community approved, that will likely be very expensive,” she said.

However, even with some possible solutions outlined and parties committed to working toward a permanent one, the problem at hand is not yet resolved.

“What the parents are concerned about is that the temporary solution will become the permanent one,” Lozano said. “We will be organizing future meetings to hold the school and the mobile home park to their word and we have also been in touch with the county commissioners to ensure that the construction permits be expedited.” 

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