EASTWOOD ELEMENTARY: SCHOOLING LITTLE CHILDREN AT A MAJOR HIGHWAYS INTERSECTION
After the recent Dominion Post article about traffic at Eastwood Elementary (DP summary: “School officials say…“), I received the following comment via email, which basically agreed with the opinion of Monongalia County Board of Education member Ron Lytle:
It really irritates me that I pay taxes to provide an efficient public transit system for schools (school buses), yet parents cave to their children’s demands for a separate ride. The traffic problem is because each child is getting a separate car ride to school, instead of riding the bus. That traffic problem is one the parents create, and the taxpayers have already provided an efficient, environmentally friendly solution.
The traffic [delay] problem is the least of the issues with the location of Eastwood Elementary. That’s the Dominion Post’s issue not mine (maybe because many of their workers go through that roundabout to get to work). It’s unhealthy and unsafe – and otherwise callous – to site a big school for small children at a major highway intersection, entirely violating state school siting safety regulations, also state school signage laws, in the process.
The Dominion Post contacted me. I didn’t contact them. I haven’t even read the article other than the online summary available free online, which was ridiculous. I imagine the article was worse.
However, it should be noted that the BOE knows that every single elementary school has many car riders, especially since pre-k classes were mandated to be made available for 3 or 4 year old children by the state. Some of the bus service is bad or otherwise too long and arguably dangerous for 3, 4, and 5 year olds to use. Parents and grandparents understandably are more protective of these young ones than they would be or need to be of middle and high school students. Regardless, the BOE knows that these car riders exist, has done nothing to try to reduce the car ridership, and has screwed up bus routes and bus delivery for years. It’s no perfect world in this regard and still the BOE insisted on this site.
Furthermore, your point is completely irrelevant when considering school events, concerts, meetings, open house, and so on. The school site and approach is complete chaos at those times due to the school’s major intersection location and cramped campus. This also really pisses off commuters to and from work too who have nothing to do with the school.
Finally, note that board member Lytle tacitly admitted the obvious that there is a problem with traffic (and blamed the parents solely, at least in the article summary), while the Superintendent insisted that there is no traffic problem. This is the kind of dissembling and solution-less, responsibility-shucking pronouncements that parents have come to expect from the BOE. No surprise then that the BOE stuck the school in a shitty location, especially for little kids, an unsafe location, and had to violate state student safety rules and laws to do so, all the while operating frequently in a deceitful and covert manner in face of deep and widespread parent and community opposition to the lousy site. I share your concerns about the overuse of cars and its environmental fallout. I can’t be held responsible for any moronic Dominion Post article, unless I suppose it was my mistake to return their call in the first place.
It should further be noted that there are additional very good reasons that parents drive their children to and from school, especially elementary school, rather then put them on the bus:
There are many cases in which driving students to school in cars is more efficient than putting them on buses and about as environmentally sound. For example, many parents drive directly past or nearby their child’s school on the way to and from work and town each day. It makes no efficiency or environmental sense not to drive the student in car. Buses are unreliable – early, late, not showing at all – and bus stops are often not located at or even near students’ houses. Thus why waste fuel and time sheltering the student in a car in rainy or freezing weather waiting for a bus that may or may not arrive on time, when one has to drive near or past the school to get to work anyway? Waiting and hoping for the school bus would be inefficient, and even potentially excessively polluting. Parents who work strict shifts often cannot be held hostage to uncertain bus pickups, and do not want to be faced with the prospect of leaving their young children alone by the side of the road, or alone at home hoping for a bus pickup, while they have to get work, or to an appointment.
Similarly after school. Because school lets out in early afternoon, often no one is home to receive the child off a bus. Parents reasonably make arrangements with grandparents, aunts, and friends’ parents, sometimes on a rotating or irregular basis, to care for their child, which often requires car pickup. Elementary school children are not adults using a city bus line who can simply use a ticket on their own to take them various places. Life is more complicated than that. Young children are more dependent than that.
So is it any wonder that about 20 percent of Eastwood Elementary students are car riders? The wonder is that more students are not car riders. We haven’t even mentioned the problem of bullying on school buses and the utter lack of bus monitors. Is school bus ridership likely to increase much? It could decrease. Should bus ridership increase very much? Given the existing realities, how? In recent years the BOE hasn’t even been able to get enough buses running to cover all the routes all the time, never mind the problems with the system when it is minimally functioning.
Sure, the schools should make efforts to understand how bus ridership might be increased. Despite the school bus related death of a student today in Monongalia County, school bus ridership – especially when well done – is safer than car ridership.
Either way, it remains wholly irresponsible of the BOE to build and operate too big schools in too tight places. BOE member Ron Lytle and the rest of the school board simply shuck their responsibility for the problems while Superintendent Devono pretends the problems don’t exist. And isn’t that why the BOE refuses to video record or even to audio record their public meetings in their tiny room? Too much to keep covered up, too much to bury out of sight of the public. That local taxpayers would vote for this type of representation…. It’s a shame.
Again, the basic issue is that when a big school for small children is sited at a major highways intersection, traffic delays are the least of the problems at and around the high risk and pathetic site. To that, Superintendent Devono and the school board say, La la la la la la la.
See one of many related earlier posts:
MORGANTOWN — One parent of a student at Eastwood Elementary says the school’s location, adjacent to the Mileground roundabout, causes traffic congestion and long delays for parents.
“And it’s only going to get worse with the upcoming DOH expansion of the Mileground,” Tony Christini said.
But Monongalia County Schools officials disagree.
Superintendent Frank Devono said no recent parent-concerns about traffic congestion during student drop-off and pick-up have been brought to his attention.
He said no major issues have been reported to his office concerning the ability of buses or other vehicles to get onto the roundabout from Eastwood’s exit.
Mon County Board of Education member Ron Lytle said no congestion concerns have come to his ears either. He said there is a simple solution to any congestion issues that may arise, though.
“We need to eliminate additional traffic with parents taking kids to school every day,” he said. “It’s a simple solution: People need to put their kids on the bus.”
And Lytle explained that the location of Eastwood is in no way an issue.
“It’s absolutely a good location for a school,” he said.
The Dominion Post spent more than an hour at the roundabout Friday, during school dismissal. It observed that cars and buses had no trouble getting onto the roundabout from the Eastwood exit. However, traffic delays getting onto the roundabout and Mileground Road from W.Va. 705 and Willey Street were observed during that time period.
Two minor collisions were witnessed by travelers merging onto the Mileground. Neither accident resulted in any injury.