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South Whidbey School Board offers bus pickup compromise on Crawford Road

Bet Watson, a parent of a South Whidbey High School student, urges the school board to pick up his daughter closer to their Crawford Road home.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Bet Watson, a parent of a South Whidbey High School student, urges the school board to pick up his daughter closer to their Crawford Road home.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

A long, winding road had one parent furious over a lack of school bus pickup.

Ben Watson and his 15-year-old daughter live on Crawford Road near the Whidbey Air Park. Though they live only a couple of miles away from the high school as the falcon flies or about three miles away by transit, the South Whidbey School District does not pick her up near her home.

Walking a mile on Crawford, a private street, to where it meets Highway 525 is the current expectation. The walking distance complies with the district’s bus pickup policies.

“It is a road we do not want to go down,” said Superintendent Jo Moccia.

Crawford Road has lots of sharp turns, narrow right of ways and potholes. All of those are treacherous factors for school buses not known for maneuverability. One particular impasse leaves only 6 feet, 9 inches for another vehicle to pass by one of the district’s large, yellow school buses.

The parent and his daughter addressed the school board at its April business meeting. Watson claimed the road’s dangerous nature was sufficient reason for the district to bus his daughter closer to their home without walking on Crawford Road for even a half-mile.

“There’s half of it that looks like it’s out of Beirut,” Watson said. “It’s bad. If it’s too dangerous for a Suburban, it’s probably too dangerous for a 12-year-old girl with no streetlights.”

Prior to the public comment at the board meeting, Watson told his concerns to Superintendent Jo Moccia and Dan Poolman, assistant superintendent and director of transportation. They offered a compromise to pick up students near Forest Knoll Lane, where a Rotary-built bus shelter offers enough room for buses to turn around. The walk is a half-mile straightaway on Crawford Road.

What was scheduled to be a five-minute comment turned into a 20-minute tangent. Even the road’s condition was under fire by Watson and another Crawford Road resident, Ed Buchanan, who did not sign up for the public comment period.

Moccia and Board Chairman Steve Scoles reminded the men that road conditions are not the purview of the school district. Scoles defended the district’s decision to not take Watson’s daughter to her home in favor of the bus’s safety.

“The whole island is basically dark,” Scoles said before he recommended students wear reflectors. “It’s common sense to wear a reflector on a dark road.”

“We have to take the precautions that we need. If your situation is more complex than that, I’m sorry.”

Watson’s daughter chastised the school board for making her walk two miles each school day from the highway to her home.

“Just to get to school every single day, to walk a mile, two miles, is ridiculous,” she said.

By May, she began using the proposed pickup location.

 

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