Encampments and speeding cars: family concerned over bus stop changes

Published: Sep. 7, 2022 at 10:26 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - The Centennial School District just began a new school year Tuesday, but it was a rocky start for one family.

One parent whose daughter attends Parklane Elementary says her daughter and other children in their neighborhood have had multiple bus stops removed, and a single stop put in an area she says is not safe.

Sara Bartlemay says out of nowhere, her daughter’s bus stop was moved from in their neighborhood to out on SE 142nd Avenue and Stark Street.

Bartlemay and her fifth grader daughter, Jolene, say to get to the new stop, students have to walk around homeless encampments that block the sidewalk, and be near drivers that speed on Stark St.

“I was actually shocked and I thought it was a mistake,” Bartlemay said upon hearing of the bus stop change. " I was like ‘are you sure?’”

Jolene Bartlemay says walking to this new stop is scary for her and her friends.

“I saw mostly just vans, like a lot of trash,  and a lot of people who didn’t look very safe,” said Jolene.

Barlemay and her daughter say that students as young as kindergarten are having to deal with the new route changes, fifth grader Joelene says this was not the way she wanted to start her new school year.

“It wasn’t very fun to walk really far away from my house and just kind of stand there and see all the speeding cars, all the people, and the homeless camp.”

Sara Bartlemay says another bus stop in their neighborhood at SE 144th and Morrison was also moved to the new Stark Street stop. Just last week,  a woman in her twenties was hit and killed by street racers at SE 133rd and Stark while waiting for a Tri-Met bus,  not far from Jolene’s new school bus stop. Bartlemay says she has tried to get the school district to change the stop to somewhere safer but is having no luck.

“I would like to see a bus stop put in a more residential area not exposing our elementary school children to the traffic and crime,” said Bartlemay.

In a statement, a Centennial School District spokesperson says that student safety is a top priority for the district, but the changes were made because of attendance:

Our community, like others, has been impacted by the unsheltered homeless population challenges Portland is experiencing. The city has recently prioritized addressing these areas that are in and around schools.

Recent bus route and bus stop changes are a result of our school attendance area changes that were completed with broad community engagement last year. Attendance area and route changes were needed as Centennial transitioned from a K-6 and 7-8 middle school system to a K-5 elementary and 6-8 middle school system, as is most common in our region. Given that we now have two middle schools (instead of one) and six elementary schools (instead of seven) attendance areas and bus routes for all schools required updating and changes.