Safe walking proposal flops

The Oak Harbor School Board declined to adopt a safe walking criteria proposal as new policy at its meeting Monday night, with the rest of the board refusing to even second the motion of the one board member who moved to adopt the policy.

The policy, which came before the board for a second reading and adoption, would provide policy for the newly formed Safe Walking Conditions committee to follow when considering parents’ and community members’ requests to reconsider students’ walking conditions to and from school.

At issue is the proposed rating system that would be used to determine whether or not walking conditions are hazardous.

The policy did make it through the second reading, and was sent back to the district’s operations director for revisions.

Walking conditions deemed to be unsafe would either result in school bus transportation for affected students, even if they live within a one-mile radius of their school, or mitigation of the potential threat.

The proposed rating system would have required walking conditions to receive a hazardous conditions score of three points before the committee would be required to recommend some sort of intervention to resolve the danger. The kinds of factors considered include traffic hazards, physical conditions such as major construction or hazardous materials blocking the path, and social conditions such as students having to walk past the home of a known drug dealer or registered sex offender.

Board member John Dyer, an Oak Harbor police sergeant, said that the three point criteria were unreasonable in that a considerable hazardous walking condition could be present for students even if the area scored just one point.

“To get three of these things is never going to happen,” Dyer said. If a “legitimate” concern is brought to the committee, “it shouldn’t require three points.”

Dyer said he remains supportive of the proposed process of examining walking conditions, but would like the committee to have more latitude when considering hazardous conditions.

Vicki Harring, board member, made the motion to approve the second reading and to adopt the policy. No other board member would second the motion, with Kathy Chalfant and Gary Wallin expressing their agreement with Dyer.

However, Bruce Worley, executive director for business and operations for the school district, said there needs to be some measuring stick for the committee to use as guidelines.

“We really need some really concrete criteria, as a committee, to consider,” Worley said.

The board went on to approve only the second reading of the policy and instructed the district to rewrite the policy so that parents’ requests for reconsideration of walking areas would not simply be declined because an area does not receive three points.

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