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PARENTS DEMAND KIDS BE BUSED TO SCHOOL

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Parents of Beacon Heights Elementary and Hillside Intermediate students living east of Foothill Boulevard demanded Tuesday night that the Salt Lake School District begin to bus their children across the hazardous highway in two weeks.

They also asked the district to set criteria to determine what constitutes a hazardous route to school and to add a crossing guard to the Friday afternoon shift.A guard now helps the elementary schoolchildren cross the four-lane road, but leaves before students from Hillside walk home from school, said parent spokesman Rick Kinnersley.

All the parents got - at least for now - was promises of the afternoon crossing guard, an earlier turn-on of the flashing school-crossing lights and a request to city police for increased patrols.

The Salt Lake Board of Education decided it will have to more fully explore several options in the next week before committing itself further.

The parents first came to the board March 20, telling how frightened children must brave crossing the busy highway in face of speeding motorists. They appealed to the board for a bus, saying the district staff had already rejected their request because their children don't live 1.5 miles or farther from school.

The state reimburses the district for transportation costs of students living 1.5 miles or greater from school.

Jesse Powell, a traffic engineer who did a free survey for the parents, used radar Tuesday morning to clock 43 vehicles, in the northbound lanes, that traveled the school zone going faster than the allowed 20 mph while the crossing lights were flashing.

He calculated that, on average, 757 vehicles go through the school zone an hour producing an average of 29 violations.

In the seven options the board is considering to help solve the problem, the one closest to parents' demands for immediate busing would be to move the Beacon Heights school hours from 8:38 a.m and 3:30 p.m. to 9:10 a.m. to 4:10 p.m. and then bus the 110 children living east of Foothill to school.

It is an option that the board will be looking at more closely in the next week.

District transportation director Don Preece said the later times would be necessary so that the Beacon Heights students could use the same bus that transports students to Dilworth Elementary earlier in the day.

Parent Nancy Haslam said the time switch might be difficult so late in the school year, because it's difficult for families to make different arrangements so quickly and it would affect the whole school, not just the 110 children living east of Foothill.

The board will also consider encouraging students to attend Indian Hills Elementary, which is east of Foothill, voluntarily or perhaps making a boundary change that would require it. Business administrator Gary Harmer said the students would also have to be bused to Indian Hills, but the district could be reimbursed under a boundary change because they would meet the state's distance criteria.

Another option under board consideration is to establish a committee to set criteria and a hazardous route rating system.