Kingsview parents: Daughter endangered by walk to school -- Gazette.Net


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The parents of a Kingsview Middle School student took their concerns about walking routes near the Germantown school to the county school board Thursday, asking members to restore bus service to their home.

The decision to eliminate three bus stops, which took effect in the fall, was upheld by Superintendent Joshua P. Starr in December after several parents lobbied for reconsideration. Norma and Mark Hoffpauir have now appealed to the board.

“I think it’s a safety issue,” Mark Hoffpauir told members, after describing several pedestrian collisions that have occurred in the area in the past decade. “I don’t care about the cost.”

The bus stops in question were at Schaeffer Road between Richter Farm and Clopper roads; Richter Farm Road and Fable Drive; and Richter Farm and Leaman Farm roads.

Montgomery County Public Schools eliminated the stops at the start of this year because they were within 1.5 miles of the school — usually the minimum distance for providing school buses — and because the sidewalks and intersections have been improved to make the walking route to Kingsview safer.

But the Hoffpauirs, who live on Schaeffer Road and whose 12-year-old daughter, Grace, is in the seventh grade, say the walking route isn’t safe, and that school officials didn’t give due consideration to these concerns when making their decision.

Norma Hoffpauir argued that the school system did not conduct a thorough enough analysis of the safety conditions in the area, and that the intersection of Kingsview and Clopper roads, near the school, still requires pedestrians to cross while left-turning traffic is directed through the crosswalk.

“This is not what I think is a safe way to cross an intersection,” she said.

But Todd Watkins, director of the school system’s Department of Transportation, told the board that the crosswalk at the intersection is clearly marked and features a countdown-timer that shows how long pedestrians have left to cross — the same safety amenities as larger intersections that students on other walking routes both at Kingsview and elsewhere in the county are asked to cross.

Board member Patricia O’Neill (Dist. 3) of Bethesda said that it was state law for pedestrians and turning cars to share the right of way, and that police should be notified if drivers aren’t yielding to pedestrians at that intersection.

Watkins also defended the safety analyses of the contested walking route, telling the board that multiple levels of his department participated, and that the level of study Norma Hoffpauir is calling for is not mandated by school regulations.

“I don’t know of any other situation where we’ve done even half as many on-site visits,” Watkins said. There are sidewalks all along the route, which even cuts through a residential neighborhood at one point to avoid an unsafe stretch of road, he said.

Board President Christopher S. Barclay (Dist. 4) of Takoma Park said the board’s decision would be announced at a future meeting, but could not say as of Thursday evening when that might be.

The county does not usually provide bus service to students who live within 1.5 miles of their school unless there is no safe walking route.

dleaderman@gazette.net