East Penn Press

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EAST PENN SCHOOL DISTRICT Willow Lane Elementary School parents voice concern over walking safety

Wednesday, December 12, 2012 by PETER MCCONNELL Special to The Press in Local News

Parents of Willow Lane students represented the community voice Dec. 10 at the school board meeting, speaking collectively for nearly an hour of their unanimous concerns.

Nearly all of the 17 who spoke had attended a meeting for parents Nov. 27 where an engineer explained to them the plan for instituting the elementary school as a designated walking school, part of the district's original plan for the school. But all agreed the meeting had generated more questions than answers.

Resident, David Key, cited issues of properly analyzing the traffic impacts of the plan and the inevitable logistical problem of bad weather.

Timothy Winer argued the traffic study presented at the Nov. 27 meeting was "incomplete" and did not encompass the proposed 1.5 mile radius affected by the walking plan.

The concern with safety included proper road signage, crosswalks, crossing guards and even traffic signals at the major intersections. Many parents had already tried the walk themselves and for some it required crossing up to four intersections, something they felt was asking too much of kindergarteners and even older students.

It is in Lower Macungie Township's budget to provide signage for a walking school like Willow Lane, Superintendent Thomas Seidenberger assured the board.

The traffic signals in question had actually been proposed in a roadway sufficiency analysis report in 2009, according to Sue Coenen, of Macungie. Coenen cautioned the board against moving too quickly to make a decision.

Several people asked the board to consider reducing the radius of the walking plan. All urged the board to reconsider their decision before implementing it and to meet with a committee of parents, First Student school bus company, and community and board members to find solutions to their concerns.

Another problem arises of logistics, specifically arrival and dismissal times at the school.

"It is chaos," Dr. Paul Knappenberger, of Macungie, said. "I have some major concerns in the design and the way Willow was laid out. … It's not laid out properly for a walking school."

Seidenberger confirmed he is open to meeting with a committee and recognized certain aspects of the meeting needed clarification, as well as a list of concerns the board members who had attended also had with the engineer's presentation.

Emmaus High School Principal David Piperato announced as a result of a formal challenge. The book "Prep" will be moved from the ninth grade reading list to the AP grade 12 summer reading list. "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" will be removed from the summer reading list. Both books will remain in the high school library.

The principal's negotiations with the individual who filed the challenge also resulted in a slight change to future reading lists, which will no longer include nonfiction and will also be subject to yearly review by the English Department to determine its contents' classroom and instructional efficacy. Alerts about the reading list's contents will be made more readily available on the high school website and the language of warnings about subject matter will be stronger, Piperato said.

The school board also agreed on a change to the school calendar making Feb. 14, 2013, a full day instead of a half day as in the past. The following day, Feb 15, 2013 will be a half day.