The El Paso County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to realign their districts. The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's office proposed the changes to keep the five commissioner districts about the same population size, as the county continues to grow at different rates in different areas.
The commission districts are allowed to be redrawn every other year, if differences between the population counts in each district warrant a change. Slower population growth in the county means fewer changes within the district map, said Dave Rose, chief public information officer for the county.
The county skipped a possible 2013 map change because the districts were roughly the same population distribution since the last change. By this year, the county grew and changed enough to make commissioner districts vary by about 4 percent. Ryan Parsell, public information officer for the clerk and recorder's office, said districts should only deviate by about 1 or 2 percent.
Relatively few people spoke or provided written statements during the public comment period in this round, Rose said. “I don't think anybody's ox was gored this time around,” he said.
Most of the changes occurred in districts 2 and 4, which represent the east and south portions of the county. Falcon, Peyton and Calhan remain in District 2, currently represented by Commissioner Amy Lathen. District 2 picked up a portion of Black Forest and the rest of the Woodmen Road corridor to Powers Road, from Darryl Glenn's District 1.
Much of rural Eastern El Paso County, south of Falcon Highway and east of Curtis Road, has been transferred to District 4, currently represented by Dennis Hisey. The communities of Ellicott, Yoder, Rush, Truckton and Edison are now in District 4.
History indicates the political makeup of the board is not likely to change. No Democrat has been on the board since 1975.
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Editor’s note: We are resuming the education series, started last year, for the 2015-2026 school year. This is the first article in the new series, and we will follow up with this issue after school has been in session a couple of months.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 4,735 pedestrian fatalities across the nation in 2013; 236 were children. Twenty-one percent of pedestrians involved in traffic accidents resulting in death were children.
The NHTSA reported that about 66,000 pedestrians were injured as a result of traffic-related accidents in 2013; 15 percent of the pedestrians were children.
The highest percentage (35 percent) of child pedestrian fatalities occurred between 6 p.m. and 8:59 p.m.; the second-highest (26 percent) occurred between 3 p.m. and 5:59 p.m.
Dave Watson, Falcon School District 49 safety and security director, said he knows the statistics, and the district is doing everything possible to provide a safe environment for students and staff during the high-traffic morning drop-off and afternoon pickup times.
“District 49 continues to be one of the fastest growing districts in Colorado,” Watson said. “We are an extension and integral component of the community. As a community, we have chosen not to invest in new school construction since 2005. Congestion continues to become a more significant issue at more and more of our campuses. As we continue to grow without new facilities, increased traffic in and out of our existing school parking lots is to be expected.”
Amy Sanders, a D 49 parent, said she has personally witnessed car accidents because there were too many people on the street, and others were not paying attention. Drop-off congestion is bad, but pickup issues are worse, she said. “There are people driving around other cars on the wrong side of the street, and then you have kids getting out of school on top of that,” Sanders said. “I have seen people enter in through the exit in order to gain parking access, because they could not otherwise. It is just mayhem.”
District staff and administration realize that people are often rushing to get home or elsewhere, but traffic laws need to be followed, Watson said. And a little bit of patience can go a long way to maintain the safety of the students on and around school property.
Watson provided some tips to help the school district keep students safe.
- Be patient when traveling on or around school campuses.
- When driving in neighborhoods around the schools, use caution and watch for children walking or biking to school.
- Slow down and expect children to be walking or bicycling in the streets, especially in areas without sidewalks.
- Remember that children have a difficult time estimating the speed of a vehicle, and they might misjudge when it is safe to cross the street.
- Learn and obey school bus laws in Colorado; do not pass the school bus when the arm on the bus is down; do not follow too closely behind a school bus.
- Abide by and follow all D 49 traffic rules, and follow teacher and staff instructions regarding the flow of traffic.
“Some things are out of our control, though,” Watson said. “The public roadway is not under the control of the school district. That is a public law enforcement issue. There is not much we as a district can do; we are hindered by some of the locations of our schools.”
Sanders said a huge problem she has noticed is that some schools use the parking lots as drop-off/pickup lanes as well. “My biggest concern is the people not being able to get in and out of parking spots because there are people parked back-to-back in a line behind them, waiting for their kids,” she said. “There are some children that have to be physically picked up, and their parents have to park. It is not always an option to drive up and have them hop in. But when you have to park to get them and then you cannot get in and out, it is a problem.”
Watson said he will continue to study the congestion issues at the schools to evaluate the problems and find ways to fix them.
One idea used at various times throughout the school year employs a Colorado Springs Police Department presence to discourage dangerous behavior, Watson said. Sanders said she agreed: “The teachers really have no authority over speeding or double-parking, especially if it is on the street. If the parents choose to ignore the teachers, there are no repercussions for their actions.”
Watson said the district is ramping up their efforts this school year to coordinate with the community, law enforcement and the Colorado Department of Transportation to focus on ideas to alleviate congestion issues.