Of all the issues our schools face, traffic jams at day’s end may be among the least important. Still, what does it say about our way of life when so many children need to be chauffeured home from school?
On a bike ride during a sunny afternoon this month, on Feb. 12, I noticed that the westbound traffic lane for the entire length of 24th Avenue in front of Liberty School was blocked by parents or others in parked vehicles, waiting to pick up their kids.
It’s not a new phenomenon, or unique to that school. A few days later I read a Facebook comment in response to the school district’s plans for a new bus garage: “I have to say,” the commenter wrote, “there’s a pretty damned big issue with (the North Albany Elementary School) driveway and pick-up, drop-off area that is getting completely ignored. The traffic blocks the main road almost all the way back to the credit union…”
I asked GAPS Superintendent Jim Golden about what I had seen at Liberty. “Our hope,” he replied, “is to use some of the bond money to create better off-street parking at Liberty and extend that into an off-street parent drop-off as well.” It’s on the project list of the overall $159 million bond construction program, but not for this year.
As for blocking the street, Golden said, “This issue has been brought to our attention before by the city and some of our police and first responders.”
Ideally, elementary-grade children should be able to walk to school and home again, but the size of the attendance areas in parts of the Greater Albany Public Schools makes that pretty hard. There are buses, but for some reason children don’t or can’t use them on some days, or any days.
Once they get old enough, grade school kids could ride bikes to school. With that in mind, state and local transportation officials have tried for years to promote “safe routes to school.”
This effort has a long way to go before most parents will be convinced that safe routes exist. But it’s worth pushing along, so that one of these days, many more children will be able and confident enough to get to school and back on their own. (hh)