The school district and charter school are working together to restore bus service to help the traffic problem

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Crook County School District may partner with Powell Butte Community Charter School might partner to provide the rural school some buses.

Powell Butte is a traffic and pedestrian nightmare.

That's how members of the Crook County School District board characterized the traffic congestion in front of Powell Butte Community Charter School.

But relief may be on the way.

The school district has been talking to charter school leaders about restoring bus service.

"Right now, we're in the process. Assuming approval of their budget, we would provide buses to Powell Butte," CCSD Superintendent Duane Yecha said, noting that replacing 150 cars with four or five buses would greatly reduce traffic around the building.

The charter school enrolls 200 students in kindergarten through eighth-grade, with approximately 40 percent coming from Prineville.

"We are still working collaboratively with CCSD to develop an agreement and plan for transportation," said PBCCS Administrator Jenn Berry-O'Shea. "We are hoping to provide PBCCS families with morning and afternoon routes in Powell Butte and to Prineville."

Transportation services stopped when the school became a charter in 2010, and afternoon bus service was added back in 2011. PBCCS currently has two afternoon routes, one in Powell Butte and one into Prineville. The charter school provides the Powell Butte route.

"PBCCS owns one bus that is used for the p.m. Powell Butte route and field trips," Berry-O'Shea said, and CCSD provides transportation into Prineville.

There is no morning bus route for PBCCS.

"The hope is that by offering additional transportation options, it will alleviate some of the congestion and traffic at PBCCS and on the highway," Berry-O'Shea said.

Although financial and logistical details are still in the works, Yecha reassured the school board that he's confident they will have enough buses and drivers to add four or five bus routes for PBCCS students.

They will have more details in late June when PBCCS and CCSD finalize the transportation agreement.

The intersection of Williams Road and 126 Highway has gained attention of late, especially during early morning student drop-off times and afternoon pick-up times.

Just last week, Oregon Department of Transportation installed a second blinking amber light to each of the two 20 MPH signs approaching the school zone.

Several families continue to drop off their children in the Powell Butte Country Store parking lot only to have them walk across the busy highway at the marked crosswalk, although school officials discourage them from doing so. They are instructed to use the pull-in drop-off location on the west side of the school.

District Human Resources Director Sean Corrigan said he travels through Powell Butte on his morning commute. He watches kids go through the crosswalk, and it worries him.

"Kids on buses has the potential of saving lives," he said. "We get those kids on buses and on the right side of the highway, we're eventually going to save a life. I don't have any doubt about that."

Yecha said it's good for the district to work closely with PBCCS to help solve some problems.

"All that traffic that close to the highway, with not a lot of pavement to move around, it's not ideal, but replacing a lot of parent cars with some buses has got to be better," Yecha said.

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