By Mary O’KEEFE
Officials’ suggestion for parents dropping their kids off at school: Give yourself enough time.
It is back to school which means back to school traffic. At Rosemont Middle School, Crescenta Valley and Clark Magnet high schools, over 4,000 students arrive at school within the same time period. That does not include the seven elementary schools with another 3,000 students, more or less, and all of the private schools in Crescenta Valley. All hurrying to get to class on time, some parents use designated drop off zones and others just stop and drop.
“We have been getting traffic complaints about motorists not [yielding] for pedestrians,” said California Highway Patrol Officer Ken Denmon.
The calls have been coming into the CHP Altadena office from pedestrians and motorists who observe other drivers “violating pedestrians’ rights,” Denmon added.
The office is also getting calls from neighbors, including Neighborhood Watch programs, who are concerned about the safety of school children as they watch drivers ignoring those in the crosswalk.
Denmon had been patrolling the area for a long time and understands the traffic concerns, especially around schools.
“Right now we have brought in another officer for enforcement in [La Crescenta],” Denmon said.
Several schools have been addressing the traffic issues over the past few years. Rosemont Middle School has two drop-off zones, one on Rosemont Avenue in front of the school, the other at the back of the school off La Crescenta Avenue on Los Olivos Lane.
The drop-off at the back of the school has always been very congested. Last year, due to concerns for student safety, physical education teacher Jim Mustain organized a controlled drop off zone with cones lining temporary lanes. Mustain and [industrial tech teacher] Terry Parker stand out in the lane helping to move traffic along as students are dropped off.
“[They] will be out there for the rest of the year,” said Rosemont Assistant Principal Ron Sowers.
Sowers also praised the Rosemont parents for following his instructions to not pick up their child until 3:15 p.m. or slightly later to relieve congestion.
“[The parents] are doing a great job out front,” Sowers said. “The parents are doing a marvelous job.”
Sowers is working with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works to regulate the light at Foothill Boulevard and Rosemont Avenue to allow more time for the Rosemont parents to get through the intersection. He said allowing the north and southbound signal lights to stay green longer may help with the congestion at the school’s drop off area in the parking lot.
Crescenta Valley High School’s traffic is combined with parents dropping children off at nearby La Crescenta Elementary School.
School resource officer Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputy Scott Shinagawa said the issue at the high school is parents dropping their children off.
“They drop them off on the wrong side of the street [across from the school] and they have to cross in traffic,” Shinagawa said. “And sometimes they don’t pull over to the curb. That seems to be the biggest issue.”
Shinagawa suggested that parents drop their child off a block from the school and have them walk using the crosswalks.
“And if we can get [drivers] to slow down. As soon as they drop their kids off they take off [quickly]. We still have other kids being dropped,” he said.
In the mor ning and lunchtime the traffic appears to be worse then during the end of the school day.
CVHS has an open campus policy and students are allowed to leave for lunch. Many times friends pick the students up, or CVHS students drive their own car to lunch. This too creates congestion. Most mornings and lunch times Shinagawa is in front of the school. What he sees concerns him.
“It is a huge issue – a nightmare waiting to happen,” Shinagawa said.
To Crescenta Valley Town Council member Robbyn Battles the issue of traffic safety near schools is a priority. Through her efforts a sidewalk was poured near Monte Vista Elementary so children would not have to step out into traffic as they approach school. A large bush that was obstructing drivers’ view was also removed with the cooperation of the homeowner, who was also concerned for the students’ safety. Battles worked with Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Al Evans to organize a secondary drop-off site for Monte Vista at Two Strike Park.
This year she is hoping a flashing crossing light will be placed at Glenwood Avenue and Foothill Boulevard. There is a grant that has been applied for that, if approved, will be able to fund more safety projects for local schools.
Battles continues to be amazed at how irresponsible some drivers are around schools.
“I was at the crosswalk on Rosemont [Avenue] and Los Amigos Street. This poor kid kept pushing and pushing the [crossing light] button, the lights were blinking but no cars would stop,” she said. “Then a car [finally stopped] and the car behind them drove around the [stopped car]. I had to hold my breath. I thought the kid was going to be hit.”
The issue of time, or lack of it, seems to be at the root of some of the traffic issues.
“Parents that are driving their children to school need to make sure they leave with enough time,” Denmon said. “A lot of complaints [we are hearing] are that motorists are driving too fast.”
Battles, Sowers and Shinagawa all said they have seen evidence that parents seem to be rushing their child to school, and then rushing away.
Denmon suggested that parents give themselves plenty of time to get their child to school.
“And for parents that are walking their kids to school, look out for motorists because they may not be looking out for you,” he said.