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:
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