Prompt responses ease Chiawana's first weeks

By the Herald editorial staff

When any new operation opens for business in what was until very recently a tranquil mix of homes and farmland, there are bound to be some problems.

Chiawana High School in Pasco is no exception.

We knew from the outset that the district was following the state standard for busing, which states that students who live in a 2-mile radius as the crow flies can walk to school. Bus service wouldn't be provided, and we expected to see a lot of walkers.

While much work was done to improve West Argent Road near the school with sidewalks and stoplights, some of the main walking routes don't provide sufficient safety for students on foot.

In particular, Road 84 has been an issue. It's a feeder route for walkers from the Aho subdivision who are heading to McLoughlin Middle School and Chiawana High School.

Students have hoofed it from the housing development to McLoughlin in years past, but the added volume of students heading for the high school has magnified the problem.

About a quarter-mile of the road doesn't have sidewalks, leaving kids to walk in the road. That's not a good situation.

Chiawana officials responded quickly, acknowledging the issue and working toward a solution. Within a couple of weeks of the start of classes and subsequent complaints from parents about the hazard, the Pasco School District instituted a shuttle service.

It runs from a park near Ryeland Drive and John Deere Lane to the middle school and high school, taking students past the most dangerous stretch.

That resolves a lot of the problem but doesn't help kids who miss the shuttle or stay after school for activities and still have to trek down Road 84.

The shuttle is a good temporary fix, but curbs and sidewalks are needed along the entire route.

Apparently, another problem is caused by students parking on residential streets near the high school to avoid the permit requirement in the student parking lot at Chiawana.

Many of the residential streets near the high school don't have shoulders or sufficient room for an influx of vehicles. Chiawana and the Franklin County Sheriff's Office were quick to respond to residents' concerns.

Pasco School District officials have been responsive to their new neighbors in West Pasco. And, for the most part, Chiawana High School has been welcomed with open arms by the neighborhood.

Everyone knows how crowded Pasco High had become and that a second school was needed to provide students a path to a diploma in an environment where they had room to learn.

While more work needs to be done to provide students with safe travel routes to and from school, great strides have been made in a short time.

The district's quick response to problems is commendable.