Middle Park eighth-graders plan Grand County bus system | SkyHiNews.com

Middle Park eighth-graders plan Grand County bus system

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
ALL | Sky-Hi Daily News

Last year it was a recreation center in Granby; this year, it’s bus routes for everyone.

Middle School teacher Abby Loberg’s eighth grade students are pitching the idea of a free county-wide bus system, and the project is gaining momentum.

So far, the students’ research has shown that such a system is feasible in Grand County’s future. They’re hoping their work fuels conversation, bringing residents that much closer to affordable, dependable, year-round transportation.

It’s the second year Loberg’s classes have embarked on a project of this scope.

At the beginning of the school year, each of the five Middle Park eighth grade classes were posed the question: “If there were any way to make Grand County a better place, what would it be?”

Classes competed with ideas; each came up with a creative PowerPoint presentation to communicate their topic to a panel of faculty judges.

The entire eighth grade would focus on the topic of the winning class during the rest of the school year.

Much to some students’ chagrin, the topic of free county-wide transportation beat out a trampoline gym and a youth nightclub.

From its first brainstorm last October, the idea has broadened from students needing summer buses for visiting out-of-town friends, to providing more options for seniors and the disabled, for those who do not own a car or people who can’t afford today’s rising gasoline prices. The eighth-graders’ bus system has a name: “Grand Transit.”

Field trips to neighboring counties offered insight as to how the system could be accomplished here, whether by fare or free with the help of sales or property taxes.

Students interviewed the director of transportation of Summit Stage in Summit County and discovered that Summit has had its free transportation system for 20 years, and that Grand County’s current population compares to what Summit’s did 20 years ago.

They researched Routt County and found out that a fraction of property tax income for its bus system would help to stabilize the fluctuating income generated from sales taxes.

All of their information and research is being compiled for an ultimate presentation to each town board, county board and to communities.

The annual eighth grade project fulfills a service component of the school district’s International Baccalaureate Curriculum, Loberg said, and “blows the doors off” of anything she’s ever tried before. She’s found that students take ownership of the project since it’s ultimately their ideas, their maps, their Web site, all presented to the public.

Students also gain invaluable life skills, such as how to present ideas clearly, speak in front of large groups, and how to use tools such as PowerPoint and the Internet to research and convey information.

They also learn about the process of local governments and how to interview and conduct research that can satisfy adult expectations.

And, Loberg added, the adult public gains something, too: fresh ideas from youthful minds.

“Maybe it takes a bunch of 13-year-olds to evaluate things differently, to open up new areas of conversation, when we all sort of get set in our ways and have different ways of thinking,” Loberg said.

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@grandcountynews.com.

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