The Township Committee supported residents of Homestead Village on Tuesday night who brought their case before the governing body to end Ridge High School busing through their neighborhood as an alternate route.
"I believe this is a problem that needs to be solved within the campus of Ridge High School...not transferred to Homestead Village or municipal property," Deputy Mayor Carolyn Gaziano said of the school administration's decision to relieve some of the traffic backup at the high school entrance by rerouting buses to Cedar Hill Elementary School, where students can walk to the back entrance of the high school.
As residents offered applause and standing ovations, Township Committee members unanimously agreed that while alternatives are being investigated, the school district should halt the rerouting of buses to Cedar Hill via narrow streets in Homestead Village.
The rerouting had gone into effect on Feb. 1, and dozens of Homestead Village residents failed to persuade school officials at Monday night's Board of Education meeting to reverse that decision, even while insisting that two local children had nearly been hit by cars heading to the high school between about 7 and 7:30 am. since the beginning of the month.
The committee voted 5-0 to support Committeeman John Carpenter's suggestion that the governing body draft a letter "respectfully" requesting school officials to cease the "experiment" of routing Ridge morning buses behind Cedar Hill and go back to sending Ridge buses into the high school's main entrance at the intersection of South Finley Avenue and Lake Road, where he said school traffic has been an issue for more than 40 years.
Carpenter and other committee members said the township will offer engineering expertise in sitting down with school officials to work out a solution, short of allowing bus traffic to be routed through the municipal complex along an emergency access road that leads to the high school.
Committeeman Scott Spitzer received the first standing ovation from the audience when he said, "We should urge the district to stop this experiment." Spitzer and others said the district had spent millions on an expansion at the high school earlier this decade without addressing a solution for traffic at the location.
"It's a huge hazard," Mayor Mary Pavlini said after hearing comments from residents about the danger that increased traffic from both buses and cars driving to Cedar Hill.
As he had the night before, Forest Trail resident Brian Meagher described how he watched his middle school-aged son nearly get hit by a blue car that he said sped by a stopped school bus with flashing lights.
The residents again said two children waiting for the bus had nearly been struck by an increasing number of cars that apparently have decided to follow the buses in using Cedar Hill as an alternative dropoff point.
Meagher said it was "outrageous" that school officials had the night before deemed the rerouting of buses, which reportedly shortened morning traffic lines and the wait at the intersection of South Finley Avenue and Lake Road, to be successful. "And you guys know that," he said to the Township Committee.
Abbie Krieck, a sophomore at Ridge High School, said she and a friend walk from Homestead Village along narrow streets along the route, and have more than once had to jump off the road to avoid getting hit by cars, buses or a combination of both, as they headed to Cedar Hill School.
She said other high school students walk along those same narrow roads along, less attuned to traffic while listening to iPods in the morning.
"This is what we wanted to hear last night," Peachtree Road resident Brad Sahler said following the Township Committee's vote.
School Board President Susan Carlsson was in the audience and afterwards responded to some of the criticisms from the budget, including the complaint that school employees should be out directing traffic in the morning. She said that drivers may obey a uniformed police officer, but not faculty members.
"It's not fair to say we haven't tried to solve our traffic problems on our own. We have talked about it all the time," Carlsson said.
The board held a meeting of its facilities subcommittee meeting earlier Tuesday afternoon, and had discussed some potential options for relieving Ridge traffic on the Ridge campus, said Gaziano, who had attended that meeting.
Ridge principal asks parents to stop using Cedar Hill as dropoff point
Gaziano said Ridge Principal Frank Howlett had said he would email parents and inform them they should not drop off students at Cedar Hill School.
Parents said Howlett had made an announcement during the school day, advising students they should not be dropped off by car at the Cedar Hill School as a way of reaching the high school.