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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Drop-off and pickup issues revisited

With colder weather settling in, more parents are driving their students to and from school, which means more vehicles on the roads and an increase in safety concerns, especially during the high-traffic morning drop-off and afternoon pickup times.According to the August issue of The New Falcon Herald, Dave Watson, Falcon School District 49 safety and security director, said the district is ramping up their efforts to coordinate with the community, law enforcement and the Colorado Department of Transportation to find ways to alleviate congestion problems.In a separate interview, Watson cited roadways around Meridian Ranch Elementary School as a major concern. ìMeridian Ranch Elementary School is in a newly developed neighborhood,î he said. ìIt is a newly developed home community that causes issues that were not there a year ago, like additional traffic and additional walkers to and from school.îTo battle congestion in the area, Watson said he and David Pratt, D 49 safety and security specialist, worked with Kim Leon, MRES principal and the El Paso County Sheriffís Office.Pratt said they determined that people parking on both sides of Rainbow Bridge Drive created the most pressing issue. The street is in front of the school, which impedes the flow of traffic. Although there are no signs stating that parking along the streets is illegal, Pratt said the EPCSO will be writing tickets for vehicles parked there.ìIf you are parked in a location where any part of your vehicle extends into the roadway, you are considered illegally parked,î Watson said. ìThere does not always need to be signage to indicate that.îPratt said the EPCSO has told parents they would be writing tickets in the future. Additionally, Leon has been communicating with parents about changes to the parking setup at the school, he said.The traffic flow issues at MRES have been increasing over the past three years as new homes are built, Leon said. ìWe met with the sheriffís office, David Pratt and the zone leader and discussed how we can work together as a community to follow the law; but, at the same time, how we can create an environment where parents are not too inconvenienced, but still maintain the safety of the students,î she said.Separating the two sides of the traffic flow and building a parking lot for additional parking is one solution, she said. However, parents began pulling into the parking lot and dropping their kids off there, Leon said. ìStudents were walking in front of the bus traffic and other regular traffic. We worked with the fire department, the sheriffís department and the developerís engineers to have traffic rerouted back one way behind the school,î she said. ìWe call that street, ëBulldog Boulevard.í The busses go back that way and the fire department said it is OK for them to wait in the fire lane to drop off or pick kids up.îParents are encouraged to use Bulldog Boulevard for student drop-off as well, she said. It could take longer to use the new route, which is something the school is still working on, but it is important to balance convenience with safety, Leon said.ìWe dismiss 711 kids in about 12 minutes,î she said. ìWe clear out very quickly. There are procedures in place for all the things that we do to allow us to move so quickly. It cannot be done as efficiently as it has been, without the support of the parents.îWatson said he is researching ideas to replicate MRESís traffic flow at other schools in the district, like Ridgeview Elementary School, where similar traffic flow issues exist.The high schools in the district pose a different set of traffic flow issues that cannot be addressed in the same manner as the elementary and middle schools, he said. The city of Colorado Springsí engineering department designates which roadways will have school zone signage. Roadways in areas around high schools are usually not identified for signage.ìWe are putting together a traffic committee to discuss our options at Vista Ridge High School, where the roadway can be especially hazardous, whether it is due to weather or inexperienced drivers,î he said. The committee will address the situation and be solution-oriented to improve the traffic flow around that school, he added.The traffic flow issue is ongoing, and the district will continue to monitor and work toward a solution, Watson said. ìWe need the community to continue to exercise patience, be cognizant of the rules of the road, use extreme caution and minimize distractions to help us maintain the safety of our community,î he said.

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