Two small magnet high schools, Skyline and Realms, opened last year in a warehouse in northeast Bend’s industrial area. A little more than a year later, the road on which both schools are located, Brinson Boulevard, will receive a school zone designation near the warehouse campus later this fall, complete with flashing signs and a new crosswalk.
Sharon Smith, an attorney for Bend-La Pine Schools, said the decision to add a school zone on Brinson came this spring, after the district decided to renovate the warehouse interior to expand its capacity from 200 students and staff between the two schools to 320. This decision required the district to hire a traffic engineer consultant for a transportation analysis, Smith said. The analysis is then reviewed by engineers from the city. The analysis from this spring found the need for school zone signs if there are more students coming in and out of the campus, she said.
“When they did the analysis, they determined that if we expand to this new number of 300-some-odd students and staff, then it warranted a school zone,” Smith said.
As of September, a combined 231 students attend Skyline and Realms, according to Bend-La Pine Schools.
The Skyline/Realms campus didn’t initially have a school zone because city staff was told the schools were only short-term leasing the Brinson warehouse, according to city engineer Ryan Oster. But that has changed now that the school is making a long-term commitment to the campus with a renovation, he said.
Jon Skidmore, Bend’s chief operating officer, added that school zones are added when a school has high pedestrian traffic nearby. Because Realms and Skyline are situated in an industrial zone, a decent walk from most residential areas and where pedestrian traffic is uncommon, the school zone wasn’t immediately created, he wrote in an email.
Smith said Bend-La Pine wasn’t initially sure in fall 2018 how many students would attend the two high schools.
“The traffic analysis didn’t show any traffic concerns that would have safety problems,” Smith said. “We said, ‘Let’s open the schools … and if it’s successful and we need to expand and there’s a reason to think there’s safety concerns, then we’ll have our traffic engineer examine it again.’”
Janet Hruby, project engineer with the city, said along with the transportation analysis triggering the addition of a school zone on Brinson, some parents of Skyline and Realms students had asked for the designation.
“The city got a couple complaints about it, because there’s a couple of parents whose kids bike to school,” she said.
Julianne Repman, a Bend-La Pine spokeswoman, said eight students walk to the schools, 10-12 students bike and five or six drive there.
According to documents provided by Bend-La Pine, multiple signs will be installed in the next few weeks along Brinson near the Skyline/Realms campus. This includes two school zone signs placed 200 feet away from the campus on each side, telling drivers to slow down to 20 mph when lights flash. The improvements also include “SCHOOL” being painted across Brinson where the new school zone signs are installed, as well as a crosswalk spanning NE 18th Street from east to west alongside Brinson. A sidewalk is already present along Brinson on the side of the street where the Realms/Skyline campus stands.
The school district will spend $15,000, all from its $268.3 million bond passed by voters in 2017, to pay for these improvements.
Hruby said this will be the first school zone site in Bend with flashing school zone signs. Every other school zone in Bend has signs that tell drivers to slow to 20 mph between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Those signs aren’t as effective for slowing drivers as the flashing signs because there are many instances in the middle of the school day where no kids are outside and visible to drivers, Hruby said. The flashing signs only light up when students arrive in the morning and when they leave in the afternoon, and the bright lights are more eye-catching to drivers, she said.
“They don’t have a cue to remind them; the school front is quiet,” Hruby said. “It’s an effective tool to have the school zone flashers.”
The flashing signs cost between $5,000 and $7,000 each, while the traditional signs cost about $200 each, Hruby said.
Hruby said at some point in 2020, three other Bend schools will receive flashing school zone signs. The schools haven’t been decided yet, but city staff are working with Bend police to determine which schools have the most speeding violations nearby. So the schools that receive them will likely be those next to arterial roads rather than schools buried in residential neighborhoods, Hruby said.
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