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Twp. Committee: Halt New Ridge Bus Route

Governing body to send school district a letter 'respectfully' asking that busing through Homestead Village be stopped.

The supported residents of Homestead Village on Tuesday night who brought their case before the governing body to end  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 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 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.

Candace Hull February 15, 2012 at 01:43 PM
What a joy to be stopped this morning and asked to not drop my daughter off. No let me rephase that, I was sitting with my window open waiting for Principal Howlett to come talk with me. Instead he chased down my daughter. I pulled back around to explain that I live on Peachtree Road. His response, "just make sure you tell that to the police." Buses allowed, me in my own neighborhood - not so much.
Candace Hull February 15, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Thank you Township Committee!
BRER February 15, 2012 at 03:32 PM
We have always dropped off our kids at cedar hill. Now Howlett does not want us to drop off our kids like we used to AFTER buses are not allowed anymore? This is quite funny in logic.
goridge February 15, 2012 at 04:16 PM
@Candace: Your post seems like a contradiction. The neighborhood was concerned that they did not want cars dropping off students at Cedar Hill. I think Mr. Howlett was listening to the exact concern and redirecting ALL cars to the Ridge High Lot. Was it the intention that all cars get turned around - except the neighboorhood cars?
goridge February 15, 2012 at 04:19 PM
What suggestions did the Town Council offer last night? Can the buses use the municipal lot? I would imagine that the school can also "respectfully" decline their recommendation - so now what?
Local Dude February 15, 2012 at 05:18 PM
How exactly is it illegal for parents of HS students to drop their kids off at cedar hill so that they can wallk across to the HS? It's public property ..... and it's been going on for a long time.
goridge February 15, 2012 at 06:04 PM
I don't think it is illegal - I think it was the BOE's response to the neighborhood's concern about parents driving too fast through the roads. They want to encourage ALL parents to drop the students off at Ridge HS.
Christina Ehret February 15, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Unfortunately I think the issue is that the drivers are not obeying the speed limit nor the stop signs and, in some cases, not stopping for the William Annin bus picking up students in the neighborhood. What was once a manageable amount of traffic has become 60-100 cars speeding, running stop signs, and making the area unsafe for students who are walking to class. Personally, I think the situation prior to the onslaught of bus traffic was fine. The tide turned and the police officers patrolling the neighborhood and the administration overseeing the situation felt the same. The drop off procedure needs to be completely reworked and I urge the BOE to take advantage of the TC's offer to utilize the engineering knowledge to come up with a structured, organized process. Even without the buses, the cars weaving in and out of traffic, the complete lack of authority onsite managing the process and the total absence of a structured drop off procedure create an unsafe environment for anyone trying to get to the school. That needs to be changed so that, as the population of Ridge grows, the drop off remains a safe and manageable process.
BRER February 15, 2012 at 09:38 PM
Before the Bus Fiasco, has anyone here ever heard about this neighborhood overrun by cars? Of course not. Basically it is a stupid idea followed by an overreaction.
Linda Sadlouskos (Editor) February 15, 2012 at 10:03 PM
N, having staggered start times at Ridge has been discussed before. Thoughts, anyone?
HG February 15, 2012 at 10:08 PM
The school day actually starts before 8. (I think it's 7:30.) That allows maximum utilization of the school facilities. (You'd need more rooms if you started later.) You could stagger starting times but then you'd have to stagger ending times and that would wreak havoc on extra-curricular activities and sports. I don't think there's any gold in the thar hills, but I could be wrong.
Concerned Citizen February 16, 2012 at 12:17 AM
@goridge, not sure why you're such an apologist for the BOE/Howlett decision, but you seem to have it all wrong. While I'm sure neighborhood residents are not thrilled with parents dropping off their kids at CH, that's not what they are protesting right now. It's the buses. Not the parents driving passenger cars. Howlett is NOT listening to their concerns at all.
BR February 16, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Things must be going very well if bus traffic is the hot topic.
Concerned Citizen February 16, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Once again, @goridge, it's not the parents in passenger cars that's their concern. It's the buses.
Concerned Citizen February 16, 2012 at 12:27 AM
I doubt the bus companies could accommodate a staggered schedule.
SD February 16, 2012 at 03:59 AM
Seems like they could do a lot by just managing the traffic at the high school. The video shown by Frank Howlett did not show much of an effort to control the traffic flow. It wasn’t a good situation, but the school administration has just made it worse.
SZ February 16, 2012 at 10:54 AM
What about seniors coming in later? Since the majority drive, it won't impact buses. It's not a perfect solution and there are other implications that need to be considered (class scheduling, tutorial periods, how to handle missed period, etc), but just an idea. I still prefer a longer term solution that provides for better access in and out of the school. It also bothers me that with the amount of money spent on the school additions, that this was not a priority and not properly addressed.
goridge February 16, 2012 at 01:29 PM
@ concerned: I have been reading the articles and attended the meeting on Monday night. It seems like the cars and buses are the concern.... speeding senior drivers, rushing parents, etc. I think at some point we should have a forum on the behavior of the residents at the meeting.... perhaps that is why I seem sympathetic to the BOE.
Miles February 16, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Let's face it, with Howlett in charge this problem will never be resolved. Totally incompetent administrator. Now back to the topic on hand - the only thing this experiment has done is hopefully forced the issue that we all must face. We have to build an additional way in and out of the high school - down to Maple, over to Collyer, ANYWHERE, but we spent millions on a PAC, a gymnasium and classrooms, it's time to build another entrance!
Lisa Winter February 16, 2012 at 03:19 PM
I think we need to explore using the Municipal Building for buses OR for parent drop off - when I was on the BOE, we spoke with the Township Committee (this was many years ago) about having parent drop-off behind Town Hall. There was even discussion about building a path from the Town Hall to RHS so students wouldn't have to walk through wet grass in the morning. In our discussions, we determined this would work because drop-off in the morning is well before employees start arriving, and pick-up is before they leave in the evening. The timing would work well. There was an concern about whether the police would have the open access in and out that they need, and an idea proposed that perhaps an new access to Collier Road could be developed for the police. At that time, the BOE discussed with the Township Committee the idea of a new access road in and out of RHS - it would have cost MILLIONS of dollars, and would have gone down the back, destroying the beautiful path from the school to the Community Center (which many residents enjoy). The Townshop Committee was not interested in funding this road, and the BOE couldn't possibly have come up with millions of dollars after having just passed a referendum to pay for school expansion for required educational facilities. So the matter dropped. This is not just a school district problem. It's a community issue, and requires a community solution.
Linda Sadlouskos (Editor) February 16, 2012 at 03:23 PM
What do other high schools (some much larger than us) do?
clarke February 16, 2012 at 05:31 PM
What about all of the people who get stuck in Ridge traffice in the morning while going to work?
Laura February 16, 2012 at 07:59 PM
If the issue is too much traffic on S. Finley, and now too much traffic in Homestead Village, why in the world would we move that traffic to the egress from our police station? The police have said that driveway needs to be kept clear for emergency response, and with all due respect, that should end that discussion. Seems to me there's plenty of roadway at the high school, but someone up there needs to redesign and then supervise the traffic flow, and people just need to be patient, give themselves plenty of time, and obey the traffic laws. There's an inordinate amount of whining going on about this "problem".
NL February 16, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Laura, perhaps you should lead the effort to "redesign the roadway and supervise the traffic flow" because you make it sound so simple. Don't know how your post that does not offer any substantive solution/recommendation is any better than the "whining" from other folks.
Laura February 16, 2012 at 10:00 PM
First to admit I'm not a traffic engineer, nor am I police officer. Just seems to me the BOE would hire an expert, and also heed what the police have to say, before people start rallying for new multi-million dollar roadways. I am, however, very good at obeying the speed limits, yielding to pedestrians, budgeting time for traffic, and singing along with the radio so that I don't succumb to road rage, things that cost nothing and would also go a long way to solving this problem. Serenity now.
Linda Sadlouskos (Editor) February 16, 2012 at 10:18 PM
I think it's worthwhile hearing all ideas at this point. A reader was talking with me today about having seniors being allowed to take some of their "core" courses -- ie. English 101 -- at a county college. Being done elsewhere...reduces school population, and maybe can be scheduled to remove some morning drivers.
Christina Ehret February 16, 2012 at 10:34 PM
@Laura. I agree with you. Mr. Howlett claims they have exhausted all options but I haven't seen a structured drop off at the high school like the ones we have at the elementary and middle schools. It's a free-for-all. I would like to see what the district has tried and why it hasn't worked. The TC offered the use of an engineer to the BOE. I think it's time they tried something.
Lori February 19, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Too many parents are driving their kids to school between 7:00 and 7:40 a.m. either because they want their children to sleep an extra 20 minutes (so the precious babes don't use the buses), or, they don't get free busing and have to pay $690 per student, which is an outrageous amount.
Lee March 01, 2012 at 02:54 AM
What is ridiculous is a group of people "creating hazards" on purpose. Doubled parked cars, dog walkers crossing the street in front of the buses and additional traffic a few days after the start of alternate High School drop off. The streets are not narrow and filled with pedestrians. "An accident waiting to happen"? The first day of the alternate route there was absolutely no problems. A few days later, created hazards by individuals who were trying to endanger the safety and welfare of the students and bus drivers. Why is it safe to bring the Cedar Hill Students through Homestead Village but not safe to bring in the High School Students?
Miles March 01, 2012 at 11:57 AM
Wake up people!!!! Buses have been driving through "Homestead Village" dropping kids off at Cedar Hill School for almost 50 years! I rode the bus to Cedar Hill in the seventies -it's nothing new!!!


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