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By Collin Breaux

Given the rise in use of electric bikes, the Capistrano Unified School District is establishing a policy to govern their use on campus.

The CUSD Board of Trustees approved allowing the district to implement a “Safe Routes to School” policy on Wednesday, Sept. 21. In-depth details of the policy were not spelled out during the meeting or in an agenda report. Each school site will develop e-bike procedures.

“Strategies in support of the Safe Routes to School Program shall be based on the grade levels of the students and an assessment of the conditions and needs of each school and the surrounding neighborhoods,” the report said.

Trustees did not extensively comment on the agenda item, aside from suggesting minor revisions before passing the item. The policy previously came up at an August board meeting during a first reading of the policy. Board President Martha McNicholas said the policy is “still in development.”

“It is essential for our schools and our community,” Capistrano Unified Council Parent Teacher Student Association Executive Vice President Michele Ploessel-Campbell said. “It will help save student lives.”

The Niguel Hills Parent Teacher Student Association recently hosted an e-bike education event in conjunction with the Dana Hills Parent Teacher Student Association, where the Safe Routes to School policy was mentioned, Ploessel-Campbell said.

Safety concerns over e-bikes have become a hot topic in South Orange County, with officials, law enforcement and school resource officers emphasizing an education-first approach to addressing community concerns of reckless ridership.

“Students riding e-bikes to/from school and the storage of e-bikes on campus needs to be regulated,” the board report said. “A committee of district and site administrators developed a protocol for e-bikes, which includes storage, security, permits, education, bike classifications and safety. This policy has been reviewed and edited by legal counsel.”

The policy specifically outlines that the CUSD Superintendent or a designee may appoint a Safe Routes to School Program coordinator and identify or establish district or school site committees to oversee and coordinate related activities.

The district can also collaborate with other entities including transportation agencies, cities, county agencies and community organizations.

“The Superintendent or designee shall explore the availability of grant funds and other sources of funding to support related projects and activities,” the policy said. “The Superintendent or designee shall periodically report to the board on the implementation of program activities and progress toward program goals.”

An agenda item intended to advocate for local public health departments to have more say in public health matters—brought about by COVID-19 restrictions being mandated by the state—was removed from Wednesday’s agenda.

Collin Breaux

Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com.

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