A protected bike lane on Second Ave. in downtown Seattle.

With wary eye on trucks, bikers seek safety on city streets

On a July afternoon in New Orleans last year, Philip Geeck was riding his bicycle in a marked bike lane on a busy street. Approaching an intersection, he came up alongside a tractor-trailer truck hauling a tank of chemicals. Geeck, 52, was at the 18-wheeler’s midpoint when suddenly, without signaling, the truck began to turn right, witnesses say. Victor Pizarro was driving nearby and watched in horror as the scene unfolded. He saw a look of confusion on Geeck’s face as the trailer came toward him.

Music therapist Keeley St. Clair leads Robert Russell and other members of the group through a rehearsal of "The Circle Game," which they modified with their own verses. The Lake Oswego Adult Community Center offers respite classes twice a week.

Senior centers lag behind Alzheimer’s rising tide in Oregon

The story of Art and Sue Martin matters because increasingly Oregonians will have to pay to care for an aging population where Alzheimer’s and dementia are on a sharp uptick. Right now in Oregon, nearly 60,000 adults suffer from Alzheimer’s. By 2025, that number is set to jump to 84,000 — almost two percent of the population. Yet senior centers, an important provider of services to older adults and a local link to state and federal safety net programs, are frequently unprepared to serve people with Alzheimer’s and the family members who care for them.

School Districts Explore Solutions For Excessive Portable Classroom Use

Third-grade teacher Nancy Avery helps her class during reading time. Avery taught in a portable classroom for 27 years. This is her first year inside a brick-and-mortar building at Jefferson Elementary in Spokane, Washington. Photo: Courtney Flatt/EarthFix

SPOKANE, Wash. — Teachers at Spokane’s Jefferson Elementary don’t have to look far to know what they left behind.

The school’s old portable classrooms sit just a block away from their brand new building. It was in those portables where for nearly 30 years, Nancy Avery made the choice between fresh air and listening to her students, when she’d routinely switch off the noisy ventilation system that drowned out their voices.

It was in the school’s 14 portables where students and teachers were sick far too often, she said. Several teachers contracted skin reactions, she said, that have dissipated since the move to the new building.

No longer does Avery worry about water leaks and ceiling stains. No more will the hot, stuffy box lull her students during standardized testing.

But most of all, there’s no more smell. That’s what she and the others notice most.

“Those portable classrooms don’t have a masonry foundation at all, so you just have dirt underneath — so it smells a lot better in this new building,” Jefferson Elementary Principal Mary-Dean Wooley said. “That moldy, earthy smell is absent completely.”

In September, Jefferson Elementary’s new $25-million campus eliminated the need for portables. Built with enough space to accommodate future enrollment growth, Wooley said the school shouldn’t need them any time soon.

States Put No Limits On Use Of Portable Classrooms

Workers at Blazer Industries push a half-built portable classroom out the door of the modular building manufacturing plant in Aumsville, Oregon. Photo: Cassandra Profita/EarthFix

AUMSVILLE, Ore. – After affixing the roof to the walls, five workers push a half-built classroom out the door of the Blazer Industries manufacturing plant. Clearly, this is a portable classroom.

It’s one of about 130 portables Blazer has been contracted to build this year. Most will go to overcrowded schools in Washington state, and most will be built in four to seven days. Inside this warehouse, the company has built entire schools, churches, hospitals and high-end homes — one truckable piece at a time.

Blazer’s customers can choose what kind of buildings they want. They can order upgraded heating and ventilation systems and non-toxic building materials to improve the indoor air quality and reduce health risks, company engineer Rock Shetler said. But those options cost a lot more.

“The biggest thing with classrooms is really the budget of the school districts,” he said. “When the budget only allows the cheapest materials and the cheapest products, that’s really what it comes down to.”

The state of Washington says the cheapest materials aren’t good enough for new schools. It requires new school buildings to meet a long list of environmental conditions to qualify for state construction funds under the Sustainable School Protocol.

“Merely complying with minimum codes during design and installation will not ensure good indoor air quality,” the state says in the protocol.

But those rules don’t apply to portable classrooms. For portables, Washington offers recommendations, not requirements.

Despite Increasing Death Toll, Push Is On To Open More Public Roads to ATVs

For a disabled kid found abandoned on a street corner in China at age 4, Guo Biao was doing pretty well by last fall. After a decade hidden away in a Chinese orphanage, he had landed at the apple and cherry farm run by Dwayne and Sherri Bowman near Zillah, a farming community in central Washington.

Finally. A family. And also a new name: Zeke Bowman. With only a second-grade education, the teen from China was welcomed by the devout Christian family. The Bowmans helped Zeke learn English. For the first time he got a hearing aid for his deformed ear.

“He was so thrilled to be here,” Sherri Bowman said.

And then last October, Zeke climbed aboard one of the Bowmans’ four all-terrain vehicles, just as he’d done many times before at the end of a day in the orchards. He headed down a two-lane country road called Lucy Lane. For reasons the Bowmans still ponder, he rear-ended a tractor and died that evening in the hospital.

ATV tragedies like this – on roads, rather than backcountry trails where ATVs are designed to go – are widespread and have increased in recent years. The latest U.S. figures indicate that ATV crashes kill more than 700 people and injure 100,000 others every year, with nearly two-thirds of the fatal accidents occurring on public or private roads.

The accidents keep happening even though all ATVs sold in the U.S. carry a warning label stating that the vehicles are not to be driven on the road. Their high center of gravity and low-pressure tires mean they’re likely to tip over or go out of control on pavement. What’s more, the vehicles aren’t held to federal safety standards for cars and trucks, such as the requirement for seat belts, even though they can reach highway speeds.