USD 410 aims to change traffic habits at elementary school

When classes begin Aug. 18 for Hillsboro schools, parents of elementary school students?and other local motorists?will have some new lessons to learn, too.

With the intent of making the area safer for children, Unified School District 410, in partnership with the city of Hillsboro, has developed new rules for drivers who approach the elementary school during a school day.

A revised version of the plan was approved by the Hillsboro City Council at its Aug. 3 meeting.

Starting this fall, parents will be asked to approach the school exclusively on Eisen?hower Street, and use only the loop along the east side of the school building to drop off and pick up students. Parents can use any street to leave the area once they exit the drop-off area.

Also, the new rules prohibit parking, as well as loading and dropping off children, along A Street between 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on school days.

The loop that runs along the south (front) side of the school will be restricted to bus loading and unloading and will be off limits for parent traffic. Parents who wish to park are asked to use the staff and visitors lot east of the school.

The traffic changes were overdue, according to Superin?ten?dent Steve Noble, but especially this year with the elimination of an in-town bus route.

?Recent budget challenges have forced USD 410 to eliminate some programs and services the district has provided patrons in the past,? Noble said. ?One of these services was the town route in which elementary town kids were dropped off at points throughout the community.

?As a result of eliminating this service, we believe student walkers and parents driving their children to and from school will increase for the fall of 2010.

?While risk of student injury because of traffic is always a concern, our present concern is elevated.?

The traffic plan Noble presented to the city council at its Aug. 3 meeting had been developed cooperatively with school and city officials, including Police Chief Dan Kinning.

Also attending the council meeting, at the invitation of city officials, were several residents from the area. All spoke of the need to increase safety efforts.

?I?m surprised there hasn?t been a kid severely injured or killed (along A Street),? said Karl Jost, who lives at 205 S. Kennedy.

Doug Wright, 201 S. Kennedy, echoed that sentiment, and said the district should have flip-flopped the areas for bus and parent loading and unloading when the options were introduced two years ago.

?I think you guys did that really backward,? Wright said, conceding that it?s probably too late to re-train parents at this point.

The plan Noble presented to the council called for the placement of ?restricted access? signs in the area that would be in effect between peak loading and unloading times, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.

With the input from residents, the council favored the more restrictive version of the plan.

Noble said the district?s plan will be emphasized during parent-orientation meetings. Also, school officials will be on-site to direct traffic in the area during the first two weeks of school.

?We want to use an educational approach,? Noble said. ?We?re going to try to teach our parents to (follow the new rules).?

The city council approved one additional safety measure at the Aug. 3 meeting: the installation of a flashing red light at the corner of Adams and A streets. The intended purpose of the flashing light is to draw attention to the four-way-stop signs at a potentially dangerous intersection for children who walk to school.

The light, which will flash only during the day, will be funded with grant money awarded to the Safe Kids Coalition of Marion County through the county health department.

?We believe these changes will meet our objective to provide a safe and convenient avenue to and from school for our elementary school student walkers and parent drivers,? Noble said.

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