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School Board Considers Congestion, Safety Remedies

By Staff | Sep 27, 2011

Designs to improve traffic flow through the front driveway, located on the east side of the high school/middle school complex, were discussed by members of the Emmetsburg Community Schools Board of Education during their meeting on Sept. 19.

“Since we moved the middle school out here, the congestion out front has been a safety concern,” said Superintendent John Joynt. “We’ve tried different things. We’ve looked at this issue more than briefly. We have an active Facilities Committee and we have other facilities meetings and we need to prioritize those, which we can do that at our upcoming board work sessions.”

Joynt continued, “Currently, moving buses to the south of the drive has relieved congestion, but we still have a lot of congestion during early dismissals. Students still must enter the traffic flow and enter parents’ cars ‘in traffic.’ Parents park on King Street, Second Street, and use Mansmith’s Pharmacy parking lot in the afternoons.”

Joynt presented several options to remedy the congestion and safety issues in front of the schools during pick-up and drop-off times.

Plan B is a design proposed by Matt Bayse of FEH architecture firm with an estimated cost of $166,000. Bayse proposed a wider front drive with a ‘buses only’ lane and a raised sidewalk ‘island’ next to the parent pick-up lane. Joynt, however, does not believe that this will address congestion on King Street and Second Street.

Plan C incorporates all of Plan B as well as adding a sidewalk east of the new driveway, and returning the driveway to two-way traffic. This would allow more parents onto the driveway. A crosswalk area in front of the middle school would have to be manned and enforced. Joynt estimates that this project would cost $180,000 and believes that it would relieve the congestion on King Street and Second Street.

Plan D would eliminate some parking on the big parking lot to the south of the schools, in addition to adding a raised sidewalk. This plan would allow a new bus drop-off/pick-up area in the south parking lot. The front driveway would be made two-way, which would allow parent drop-off areas on both sides. Joynt noted that this plan would eliminate some parking so parking needs would have to be reconfigured.

Plan E eliminates some of the parking area on the big parking lot to the south. This would allow a new bus drop-off/pick-up area close to the entrance to the auditorium. The front driveway would be made two-way and allow parents drop-off areas on both sides. Joynt admitted that keeping the west side of the south parking lot clear has been a struggle for many years, however the west end must be clear to allow buses to turn around.

“How many buses at one time are loading?” asked board member Scott Kibbie.

“Two-we have six bus routes and usually two are here. Those two leave and then two more come, and so on. By the time the last two buses come, there’s no parent traffic at that point. But right when school lets out, we’ve got 200 kids coming out of the middle school.”

Joynt noted that he did not have recommendation at this point, but wanted the board members to study the plans.

Board member Tammy Naig wondered about purchasing the lot to the north, owned by Mansmith’s Pharmacy, citing that it might be a safer way for students to get to their parents’ vehicles.

“I know a lot of people are parking in the pharmacy and dentist office parking lots,” Naig added.

“Maybe that’s an option. I talked to Mark (Anliker) and he offered to sell that,” said Joynt. “He’s never complained about people parking there.”

Kibbie asked if all of the plans were concrete.

“Yes,” Joynt answered. “Really, the only one with a good estimate is Plan B, which the architect submitted. Everything else I just estimated. Sometimes my estimates are off a bit.”

“So, with Plan D, is there any problem with getting the kids to the buses through the high school hallway?” asked Kibbie.

“No, getting to the buses is not a problem,” said Joynt. “There was a concern with parent groups in trying to keep the kids separate, but if it’s a safety issue, they can walk through the high school. They are dismissed at different times anyway.”

Board member Kim Campbell noted that she was concerned about the buses and increased congestion when the high school students are leaving the south parking lot in a hurry.

“I’m not opposed to speed bumps and other things to slow them down,” said Joynt.

Joynt shared that he had asked the city about parking on King Street and placing a sidewalk there, but the city did not want the congestion due to the street’s status as an emergency route.

“To really appreciate this design, you need to come here on a two-hour early dismissal day,” said Naig. “Go park over at Mansmith’s and watch what’s going on. Based on the plans we’ve seen, you’ll have a real clear idea about what will work and what won’t work.”

The board will consider the driveway projects at the board’s workshops planned for Oct. 5 and Oct. 12.