With in-person classes now in session, schools adhering to COVID-19 guidelines to keep staff and families safe and the large number of parents driving their children to school has led to a perfect storm of congested traffic and personal injury automobile crashes.
The Times was made aware of traffic issues at North Road Elementary. This came after a motorcyclist was injured last week.
The current problem begins when parents start arriving to pick up their children after school. The parents are not permitted out of their vehicles to walk up and get their children. Instead, they must wait in line in their vehicles, sometimes backing up (impeding) North Road traffic for a few blocks.
Most likely out of frustration, some motorists are venturing into the center turn lane to get around the stopped traffic. This is illegal and has caused some collisions.
Lt. Jeff Cross of the Fenton Police Department confirmed that there have been a couple of collisions due to the backed up traffic. “We were out there three times last week for cars using the center turn lane,” he said.
Problems aren’t just at North Road. Cross said within city limits, there are eight school buildings, including all of Fenton Area Public Schools and St. John School. Long lines are happening at the other elementary schools as well.
Cross said police have been in contact with the principal at North Road Elementary as well as the superintendent to come up with a better solution. The district’s School Resource Officer (SRO) is also observing the traffic to fix the problem.
Fenton police are attempting to provide a police presence to deter motorists from using the center turn lane, however, Cross said after school hours are the busiest for Fenton police.
Traffic at the beginning of the school year is typically more congested. Police expect things to improve as everyone adapts to the new COVID-19 rules. Motorists are asked to drive with extreme caution through school zones and be mindful that using a center turn lane to avoid a backup is illegal.
Fenton Area Public Schools Superintendent Adam Hartley said since the statewide shutdown of schools in March, the FAPS school community has experienced change, great learning curves and have had to adapt to a number of new protocols and procedures based on laws and guidelines from the CDC and the health department.
“We are thankful for our staff, families and the community as a whole for understanding the immense pressure everyone is feeling as we return to school,” he said. “Returning to school on Oct. 1 has presented a list of challenges that we continue to work through.”
One challenge that has presented itself is the pick up lines. North Road is not alone in having more and more parents choosing to pick up, rather than utilize the buses during this pandemic and is not alone in needing to stagger release times to keep students and staff safe while mitigating exposure to COVID-19.
“What separates North Road from many
schools in our county is that it is located on a busy road and the congestion from the cars waiting to pick up our learners can at times be frustrating for other motorists,” he said.
The school has noticed that families are lining up earlier than usual, which can cause backups for a longer period of time.
“Our priority has and will continue to be student safety and we understand that this may inconvenience others during the short window of time during pick up,” Hartley said. “We are working with the Fenton police to problem solve and look at other ways to alleviate the back up on North Road and again ask the school community to work with us during this unprecedented time.”
Hartley added that they have already observed great improvement in the amount of time cars are entering the parking lot, picking up their child and leaving. The building principal, Melissa Lane, has worked hard with her team to create a safe pick up plan that is constantly being tweaked to be more efficient as people become more accustomed to this new way of dismissing students.
“We will continue to assess our protocols with the help of the Fenton Police Department by first, always keeping our students safe, and then by looking at solutions for the congestion,” he said.