Maxwell school board to tackle traffic problems

With few traffic controls for safety at Maxwell Elementary School, students having to maneuver on their own around vehicles before and after school has prompted officials to consider improvements.

Because automobiles and small children on foot don’t always mix, Maxwell Unified School District officials are looking to improve pedestrian safety at the elementary school.

With North Street blocked to through traffic, and three unmarked entrances and exits in the parking lot, the number of “near misses” between young children and vehicles has prompted the school board to look at changes in traffic configuration.

Trustee Cristy Edwards, who brought to matter to the board at their Oct. 11 meeting, said the high volume of traffic at the school during arrival and pick-times has led to poor traffic circulation and unsafe conditions for students.

“A free for all is a good way to describe it,” Edwards said.

School board members agreed that blocking off the street in front of the school this year has increased the hazard by sending the majority of vehicle traffic into an unorganized parking lot that lacks traffic controls and markings.

“Closing down the street made it worse than it was last year,” said Trustee Kelly Haywood.

School officials said they plan to thoroughly examine the dynamics of the traffic problem before they enact permanent solutions.

They also want to caution parents about engaging in unsafe behaviors, including speeding, double-parking, illegal parking, and parking in locations that encourage their children to cross a travel lane.

The school board proposed several ideas that could improve safety, including opening North Street to one-way traffic, and designating a portion of the street to a platooning drop-off/pick-up system in which all drivers must wait for the front vehicles to pull up and depart before they, too, can leave the area.

The school board may also consider eliminating the vertical parking spaces in front of the school, and make those spaces parallel handicap parking only, thus eliminating the need for motorists to backup into traffic or pedestrians.

Although the school district does not have the funding to pave and mark the parking lot, the school board said they might designate specific entrances and exits, and possibly establish directional traffic flow and directional parking.

The traffic improvements would help reduce the risks of young children walking or running between and behind cars where they are less visible to drivers, Edwards said.

The school board plans to continue the discussion on traffic controls at their November meeting.