Lake Oswego School Board extends SRO program
On Monday, June 21, the Lake Oswego School Board met for its last meeting of the academic year.
The board ratified a solution that has potentially mend the ongoing bus driver shortage that has impacted the Lake Oswego School District.
In January 2020, the school district agreed to a five-year contract with Students Transportation of America, the bus service that transports LOSD students. However, two months later, schools began to shift due to the pandemic, and bus drivers went into hibernation until 2021. In March of last year, when LOSD introduced its hybrid learning model, it initiated a temporary contract with Student Transportation of America to match prevailing local school bus driver pay rates.
Bus driver shortages have nevertheless impacted the school district since September, and in February the school district approved another modification to the contract stating that pay rates could again increase due to the ongoing shortage and an uptick of pay in neighboring districts. According to executive director of business, Stuart Ketzler, STA increase drivers income for more than 9% in their paychecks. STA confirmed this has also gathered more applicants, and subsequently, more drivers lined up.
"We are cautiously optimistic that when we start this new school year … it will be on a much smoother basis than we experienced this past year," said Ketzler.
During the June 21 meeting, the board unanimously approved a motion to ratify Ketzler's earlier agreement with STA.
Ketzler also said the district plans to implement additional adjustments throughout the summer to improve the bussing situation for the next academic year, such as re-evaluating specific bus stops that may need to be shifted due to their location.
"And other adjustments that will help improve the level of timeliness for transportation through SDA," he said.
School resource officer program will continue
The Lake Oswego School Resource Officer program was also extended for another two years.
SROs are Lake Oswego law enforcement officers who work within both high schools to maintain a safe and secure environment. The school district and Lake Oswego Police Department split the cost of paying the SROs. Superintendent Jennifer Schiele proposed a two-year intergovernmental agreement between LOPD and LOSD, which the board unanimously improved.
There are currently two SROs in the school district, plus John Parke, the executive director of safety, who each have to undergo extensive training to ensure the safety of schools. Training includes helping someone in a mental health crisis and aiding students with various disabilities, as well as recognizing signs of human trafficking, child abuse and potential threats to a school.
Earlier in the meeting, student representative Emily Zhou gave a presentation on listening sessions she conducted alongside the other representative, Alicia Li. The listening sessions were with other high school students and focused on their perceptions of the SROs and their role in the district.
Zhou said that a mixture of students took part in the group sessions. Many students described their relationships with SROs as "neutral" as they hadn't had many opportunities to interact with the SROs and didn't understand what they did.
The presentation also highlighted the importance of relationship-building between SROs and students.
The district hopes to enhance relationships and communication between LOSD, students and SROs.
The board will break for the summer, meeting again sometime in August.
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