There is a new dimension adding to rush hour traffic in the Village of Bethel. In an effort to cut expenses, the Bethel-Tate board of education changed to a tier busing system on March 30. The elimination of high school busing and the change of starting and ending times at the high school and primary school are creating a scheduling problem for many families and a traffic back-up within the village.
Bick Primary School buses depart the school at 4:15 p.m. just as many commuters are beginning to pass through the village on State Route 125. With many parents parking at the schools to pick up their children who don’t ride the buses and commuters just trying to navigate through the village, Bethel Police have their hands full.
"People know they shouldn't be parking there," said Chief Planck. "If we had a fire or an emergency situation, the fire truck or emergency squad would be hindered in trying to respond."
Chief Planck has been stopping traffic in the parking lot long enough for buses to depart from the school, but once they get to the traffic light on Angel Drive they have a difficult time moving into the traffic flow.
According to Superintendent Jim Smith, he met with Chief Planck during the week of April 6 to discuss ways to ease the traffic flow.
Smith sent a letter to be delivered to parents the week of April 13 in which he stated that if a 5.9 mill tax levy passes on May 5, the board would be returning to the former busing system.
"What we're doing with the new busing system is going smoother than it was initially," said Smith. "It's been hardest at the high school and Bick Primary because the starting and ending times for those schools have changed. It has put more stress on the parents of those kids. If the levy passes, we will go back to the old system, but for now we have five less routes. The buses at the primary school are getting out on time now, which is helping with the congestion in the parking lots."
On Saturday, April 4, the school board held a public meeting to address concerns about the upcoming levy issue.
"The main concern of the parents at the meeting was the transportation issues," said Smith.
"We are doing all we can to get the levy through. A lot of good people are working on the campaign. The point we are trying to make is that it's all about the kids and what is best for them. I just want to point out that even in tough times, you have to do what's best for the kids," said Smith. "The board, the staff, the campaign committee and the parents are all working for the kids best interests. The taxing option that we have chosen is the easiest and we hope the public agrees."
Life-long Bethel resident and co-chair of the campaign committee Sue Bee-Jones shared some insights about the levy.
"The campaign is going well. The ideas we had to get the information out to people are working," said Bee-Jones. "We are urging the people who want it to pass to get out there and vote on May 5. I wanted to make a positive difference and that's why I'm serving as co-chair for the campaign."
Bee-Jones said that transportation is currently a big issue for the people in Bethel.
"Going to the tiered busing system was a difficult decision for the board to make and it has turned out as a bigger issue than anyone expected," said Bee-Jones. "I think it could make a difference at the polls, but times are bad financially for everyone and people are fearful. I don't want to pay more taxes either, but I want to do what's right for the kids. My hope is that people will do what needs to be done for the kids' welfare. That's why I'm here, doing what I am doing. Sometimes you have to do what you don't want to do for the good of the kids."