Frenchtown Schools Superintendent Randy Cline is in a no-win situation when it comes to Frenchtown School buses traveling on Highway 93 North and South.

For years, buses would pull over to the side of the busy highway to let students out, but at the beginning of this school year, Cline said they decided to have the buses stop in the middle of the highway.

“What we’re trying to do is improve the safety of how we load and unload kids on Highway 93,” Cline said. “We were concerned about when the buses would pull over to the side of the road that it wasn’t safe, so legally, we can stop traffic both ways, which several other school districts on 93 do, and we felt that would be a safer practice.”

Cline soon realized that option brought nothing but trouble.

“Unfortunately, it looks like a no-win situation, because we’ve created some other problems that we’re trying to work through. Such as drivers not paying attention and driving around the flashing red lights or having to slam on their brakes at the last minute.”

Because of several near misses in traffic, Cline has decided, for the time being, to revert back to the practice of pulling off onto the shoulder on Highway 93.

“We still don’t feel that’s safe, but we will do that until we can get this resolved one way or the other, either by creating group stops or coming up with even a better solution that stopping in the highway, but we won’t be stopping in the highway anymore.”

Cline said the problem is more apparent on Highway 93 North, as the Frenchtown buses take students as far as Evaro.

“In that particular section of Highway 93, there a lot more semi-trucks because it’s a main corridor between Kalispell and the Interstate,” he said.

Montana Highway Patrol Captain Jim Kitchen said one of the biggest problems is that drivers don’t realize that 93 North and South is not a divided highway, which makes it perfectly legal for a school bus to stop in the middle of the road.

“With a 70 mile per hour speed limit, people think that’s a divided highway because there’s a yellow line between it, but according to the definition of the law, and the statutes regarding school buses, it is not a divided highway, so both north and southbound vehicles need to stop when those red lights are activated,” Kitchen said. “The biggest problem is the people going the opposite direction try to go around and they won’t stop. When a school bus activates those red lights and there are people trying to go around, there’s a good possibility we’re going to have collisions.”

Cline said the safety of the students is his number one priority, and he and other school and government officials will keep working on a safer alternative.

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