Tomlinson Parents Face Police Ticketing at Jammed Drop-Off

Due to last year's vote to redistrict the middle schools, traffic is bad; officials say parents for bringing children to and from school could face fines.

Ryegate Road resident Suzanne Miska’s son has not yet made it to school on time this year.

Miska told the Board of Education Tuesday that, due to the middle school and subsequent the board approved last year, the bus loop “looks like Port Authority in rush hour.”

Option E, the middle school redistricting plan, required children of eight of the town’s 11 elementary school to attend a new middle school beginning this school year. It was adopted to avoid splitting one elementary school into two middle schools, an additional middle school and any changes to the high school feeder plan.

It also fills , which is currently undergoing a for more classroom space, increasing capacity from 650 to 840 students.

Not all students were rerouted to new middle schools. Last year’s sixth and seventh-graders were exempted, or grandfathered, from the redistricting plan.

The combination redistricting and grandfathering means, as Miska vividly described, more traffic at the middle schools.

“There are 10 buses stuck in the loop at one time,” Miska said of Ludlowe Middle School. “This town in September is like a parking lot from 2 to 5 [p.m.]”

The biggest traffic issue, according to Superintendent of Schools David G. Title at Tuesday’s meeting, is at , because buses and cars use the same drop-off/pickup loop.

“It’s worse than ever,” Title said.

The traffic is so bad, in fact, that officials say they'll resort to ticketing parents who pick up and drop off their children—an effort to increase bus use and decrease car congestion in the parking lots.

Parents reluctant to send their kids on the bus could face $100 fines. Title confirmed Tuesday the policy has been put into effect.

“The more Tomlinson parents can let their kids take the bus, the better,” Title said.

The level of police involvement in the Tomlinson ticketing effort is unclear. Asked Friday about it, police spokesperson Sgt. Sue Lussier said: "I have not heard of anything or that there is a problem."

There are plans from Town Engineer Bill Hurley to fix the school’s lower level parking area and dedicate that to car traffic, so buses can move more smoothly through the upper loop, Title said.

Title cautioned the plan may take time to start, as it will need a lot of approvals. For now, much of the school’s designated parking – including Principal Connee Dawson’s spot – has been eliminated to accommodate more buses.

“In the meantime, we appreciate your patience,” Title added.

See Dawson’s letter to Tomlinson Middle School’s parents below:

Dear Parents,

Despite the seemingly endless rains, we have had a good beginning to the school year. Students and teachers are pleased to be back, and everyone is adjusting to new situations, meeting friends, and above all, we are learning.

The traffic pattern, however, remains a major problem due to the increased number of buses and the number of parents driving students to and from school, and the fact that there is currently no way to separate cars from buses on School Road, which runs alongside the school between Unquowa and Round Hill Roads.

Although we are able to dismiss 760 students relatively easily to the bus area, the congestion created when so many parents are picking up children has led the Fairfield Police Department to determine that they will ticket drivers who are in violation of the traffic laws. They have been issuing warnings, but traffic is still gridlocked on Unquowa Road and at the train station at our dismissal time due to the intense congestion and number of cars parked illegally.

It would help tremendously if our students used the buses, and fewer parents chose to drive students to school. There is currently a proposed plan engineered by Mr. Bill Hurley, Fairfield's Traffic Commissioner, which will be considered for implementation and which would separate cars from buses. It requires some minor reconstruction of our lower parking lot, and we are hopeful that it will be successful. In the meantime, please be aware that the Fairfield Police Department will enforce the traffic laws for the safety of our children and the families of the community.


Connee J. Dawson, Principal

Marie Stalling September 19, 2011 at 02:46 PM
Really? What's wrong with the busing program? You obviously don't have a child on the bus going across town. Do you really think we want to sit in traffic twice a day to get our kids to/from school? There are many reasons why we drive instead of taking the bus. My son was on the bus for an hour and ten minutes of wasted time every day. His after school sports and homework responsibilities are impacted by this so I now pick him up. The decision to bus children clear across town (when there is a school within walking distance) was made by a group of people who did not choose to listen to the list of reasons why their redistricting plan was not a good one. Spoiled "kids"? I think not!
TJC September 19, 2011 at 04:41 PM
Don't forget the added expense of having twice as many buses as needed to suport this Option E in the first place. I dont remember anyone asking for this grandfathering. When we've closed schools or consolidated in the past, there were never grandfathering options. This town needs to make decisions and stand behind them instead of assuming the worst and planning around the bad decisions. The grandfathering was a mistake financially, and now we can see that this whole Option E was never fully thought out or planned for. Threatening to ticket parents who have EVERY RIGHT to drop their kids off or pick them up is just further proof at how badly this redisctricting was handled and completely mismanaged.
Marie Stalling September 19, 2011 at 05:03 PM
Eleanor, please respect our town's policemen and women ~ they are far from lazy! Many are Fairfield citizens and feel the same financial struggles we all have. Their job is to uphold and enforce the laws of our Town and protect our citizens. We should all be thankful for them.
DM September 19, 2011 at 07:16 PM
The grandfather clause is "nice" . Wonder how well thought out or critical the student population numbers are though if grandfathering is allowed? The idea of Burr, Stratfield and Mckinly students driving by Ludlowe M.S and Woods to attend Tomlinson makes no sense. Im sure the students from Sherman who drive past Tomlinson wonder how this makes sense too.
TJC September 19, 2011 at 07:22 PM
The idea that 2 identical buses come to my corner every morning and afternoon to pick up one set of kids for Tomlinson, and another for Ludlowe MS is wasteful--especially considering that the bus for Tomlinson PASSES Ludlowe MS on the way there.
P.I. September 19, 2011 at 07:46 PM
Consequence of a poor decision by 5 BOE members. Tomlinson is a commuter school, no walkers. This problem will exist in the future even after the grandfathered kids move on to high school. I hope the a BOE makes some changes to this ridiculous feeder pattern.
J September 19, 2011 at 09:08 PM
Yes, Eleanor, please respect our town's policemen and women. You obviously was at the receiving end of them not being lazy. If they were lazy as you claim, they wouldn't have pulled you over for a yellow light. They also don't try to intimidate anyone, however, they will protect themselves when they feel the need. Your post here has nothing to do with the issue at the school. You are only using it to vent your personal issues. That officer you want sent home just may be the one to help you when you're in serious trouble. I pay taxes too but that doesn't mean I can dictate what goes on in town hall or the white house, does it?
J September 19, 2011 at 09:13 PM
This isn't just a problem with the middle school, it's also effecting the elementary schools. My kids don't get to school until 9:10 when they start at 8:55!! This is all because the bus that my kids take is late from the beginning of the route due to the problems at the middle school.
Marie Stalling September 19, 2011 at 09:34 PM
Remember this blunder when voting in November!
Getoverit September 20, 2011 at 03:27 AM
It's the consequence of helicopter moms driving their kiddies to school. Take the bus. And stop over scheduling your kids then you can get rid of the after school activity excuse to pick them up everyday.
TJC September 20, 2011 at 10:18 AM
Getoverit, your ignorance is a mixture of alarming and humorous.
Marie Stalling September 20, 2011 at 12:47 PM
Getoverit, either you don't have kids or they don't do anything other than attend school. We drive because we have to ~ no excuses. "Helicopter" insults do not change the fact that we are busy people with active kids who don't have the luxury of wasting time on a bus. Tomlinson kids are being bused from some the furthest residences in Fairfield. This is not the parents' fault, it's over-busing.
fairfield newcomer September 20, 2011 at 01:52 PM
I wonder if you have any idea of what it takes to provide bus service for 10,000+ students as well as provide for the special needs and parochial school kids who are also provided with busses. What are you doing to help the backups other than taking johnny and janie to the school because they might have to get on a bus too early in your opinion.
TJC September 20, 2011 at 02:01 PM
Actually, Getoverit's idea of a helicopter would be a welcome addition to the student transportation program. Since the BoE has no problem spending all of this money on the grandfathering, maybe they can start flying kids from the other side of town to Tomlinson. I am sure Sikorsky has some old birds laying around that they would be willing to sell cheap...Plenty of room on the turf field to land...
Stacey September 20, 2011 at 02:31 PM
Absolutely, TJC and Kate! The busing this year is the worst I've ever seen -- by far! We knew and expressed last year that Option E and the grandfathering would result in this mess --- both financially and traffic-wise. What we are now witnessing is no surprise! And where are they finding some of these bus drivers? They spend half of the route refusing to stop at designated stops, and turning around and turning around again after STILL being completely lost! This is not helping! Oh, and this doesn't even take into account the buses that are constantly breaking down. The bottom line is that it is not reasonable for a bus ride to take over an hour each way every day. Something has got to be done!
DSS September 20, 2011 at 03:43 PM
Really Jim. That is your take on the situation. Spoiled kids and Miss Management. How about the redistricting committee has no clue what they are doing and kids are spending over an hour on a bus commuting from a school that is 4 miles from their home. I spend an hour a day on a train but that is my choice it wasn't forced upon me by an organization that was told what would happen if they went with the plan that we now have.
Caitlin Mazzola September 20, 2011 at 04:48 PM
Hi Clyde: I'm sorry for the confusion - the ticketing is only happening at Tomlinson Middle School, though Roger Ludlowe is also experiencing a lot of traffic (and Ms. Miska's story made for a good lead-in to the issue).
Eleanor Bruce September 20, 2011 at 08:09 PM
Here we are talking about tickets right!, We do not want tickets we wants solutions, not all of us have jobs like we used to have before. We have to stop pretending to be rich and tell them we do not want tickets BECAUSE THE INSURANCE WILL GO UP.
christine sander September 22, 2011 at 04:49 PM
You're All right! Something should have been done a long time ago. The school board is faced with making decisions, like securing state funding for necessary building improvements, however as a town we never seem to understand that we all share the space on the roads, fields, parks ect. Our town has over grown in the last 20 years with an attitude that cars and buses are a solution to this growth with out any advances in infrastructure? We will not be able to ticket ourselves out of these traffic problems. Not all children can handle hour long transportation related commutes without severely impacting their overall well being so demanding that they make these commutes is unfair! There is a better way forward, we need a gifted town planner who put people and place making before all else. Creating an umbrella under which all town decisions are made so the livability of the Fairfield tax payer is understood and their needs are met in a fair and equitable manner. So next time you are not enjoying the drive around town don't get mad at your fellow town resident get angry that we don't have a professional town planner to guide our growth and guide us through these changes.
Getoverit September 22, 2011 at 08:39 PM
Stratfield and McKinley have been going across town for years so the arguement from whiners about the ride and the number of stops really doesn't hold any weight. Stop overscheduling your kids and start taking the bus. Should Tomlinson be a "walking" school, probably, but it's not, so follow the rules, don't park in undesignated spots and you won't get a ticket..
Sam Chalpin September 22, 2011 at 09:05 PM
Every car on the road should be ticketed as bicycling or public transportation is available to all. This idea should help greatly with our traffic problem.
something to think about September 22, 2011 at 10:23 PM
The genesis of the problem was when the town chose to build RLMS so close to Tomlinson and not more centrally located to the population of the town. There will always be children being bussed far distances as long as the buildings remain where they are and the children live where they do.
Fairfield Resident September 23, 2011 at 11:42 AM
Driving is a PRIVILEDGE.....not a RIGHT.....TJC.
Fairfield Resident September 23, 2011 at 11:44 AM
"We drive because we have to ~ no excuses." Bwhahahahahha! I am throwing up the B.S. flag on this one! Nice try Marie!
Marie Stalling September 23, 2011 at 12:02 PM
Nice try Fairfield Resident. You do not know our after school schedule so who are you to taunt me and my reasoning. That is unless your purpose is to antagonize. I will continue to drive because it is what works best for my family. As for you, "Getto-vert", sports programs contribute to the all around well-being of my child.
Fairfield Resident September 23, 2011 at 06:40 PM
Exactly! The kids in my neighborhood had an hour long bus ride to school when I was in school. We lived all the way across town ......these parents and their children need to suck it up and get over it.
Fairfield Resident September 23, 2011 at 06:47 PM
Here's a thought Marie: Have your rug rats take the bus in the morning to school and when they are done with their sports in the afternoon they can carpool with someone home or wait for you to pick them up after work (that is....if you Work). They can do their homework while they wait for you to pick them up. The Tax Payers of this town are sick and tired zing the wastefulness of parents that don't utilize the school buses that are provided to them and the subsequent clogging of our roads with unecessary trips in you road-hogging SUV's!
TJC September 24, 2011 at 03:11 PM
FairfieldResident, you've been great entertainment here at the Patch (and not just for your atrocious spelling). In this case, I'm not even sure where to start dissecting your "PrivileDge vs. Right" statement. I think its actually better to let it just sit out there and be a permanent monument to your ignorance and 2nd grade level of writing/grammar. (no offense to any second graders, of course)
TJC September 24, 2011 at 03:17 PM
FR, if you are truly speaking on behalf of anyone aside from the noises and barking dogs in your head, I'd be surprised. (what's "zing", btw?) If your concerns are truly around the expenses and taxes, then you should be asking why this Option E with Grandfathering was pushed through. It is a colossal waste of money to have all of these extra buses, and only contributes to the traffic issues that are otherwise being intelligently discussed on this page.
Carol Papageorge September 26, 2011 at 02:47 PM
I no longer have young children in the school system. Call me old fashion, but I have always believed in neighborhood schools in order for our children to have a sense of community. It's a real shame when a child who can walk to school has to take a long bus ride in order to get to school. I have to agree with the parents that say the plan was not thought out very well. There will always be a few children that are on the boarder between 2 different schools and will have to take a little longer ride on the school bus, but this situation sounds like a real nightmare. I feel for everyone involved. Carol


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