Mammoth Unified School District (MUSD) is looking for a solution to the morning commute nightmare which plagues the Elementary School.
At the Nov. 21 School Board meeting, MUSD Superintendent Lois Klein announced plans to study potential solutions.
“The parking lot issue is something that the parents brought to us, and clearly staff recognizes the concern as well,” she said. Klein added that morning traffic jams outside of MES, which back traffic all the way back to Vons and beyond, are “certainly not a new problem,” and that MUSD had recently hired a surveyor to assess the situation.
MUSD Maintenance/Operations/Transportation Director Robin Davis noted that one contributing factor could be a reduction of bus service. MUSD currently runs two large buses and one special needs bus, down from three large buses and one special needs bus four years ago. Bus use has declined, he said, perhaps because the current generation of parents prefer to drive their kids to school. “Parents want to watch out for their kids,” he said.
Klein observed that the growing number of parents driving comes with an added cost to traffic flow because of car seats. “By the time my children were in elementary school, they weren’t in car seats anymore,” she said. “Today, children are in car seats much longer. It makes sense that parents have to stop their car longer and help their child out of the car.”
Regardless of the increase in car traffic, Davis said the parking entrance and exit has always been too narrow. “We have only one lane in and one lane out of school,” he said. “We have restriped it to get a better flow, but that’s not good enough.”
Klein added that MUSD may eventually pursue a feasibility study for a parking lot improvement project that could include widening one lane to two, adding new parking spaces and moving some staff parking out of the central parking area. However, “to pay out of the [MUSD] General Fund would take away money from instruction,” she said.
Instead, the District is looking into using Developer Fees (paid to MUSD rather than the Town) to fund the project. Although such a use is “unusual,” Klein said, the District’s legal counsel concluded that such a use “could be a policy decision from the governing board.” Counsel came to this conclusion because, she quoted, the lot “‘wasn’t constructed to accommodate the needs of the Elementary School project.”
While MUSD considers funding a feasibility study for an improvement project, Davis said the District will review the start and end times of class periods for a possible change, perhaps staggering K-2 and 3-5 grades arrival times at 7:45 and 8 a.m., respectively. Davis said he would also be happy to consider re-routing bus drop off to the back of the school.
In addition, the District is currently advertising for three “campus security positions,” or parking lot attendants, Klein said. Attendants would assist for an hour in the morning with drop off and parking. According to Klein, the cost of these attendants for the remainder of the school year would be under $10,000.
MES parent Tabby Mannetter offered her own suggestion at Thursday’s meeting. “I’ve always thought the flow [of traffic] goes the wrong way,” she said. “If you had in be out and out be in, that would stop all the cross-traffic when you were pulling out.”
Parent Kaysie Williams added, “I have two children at the Elementary School, and luckily my husband drops them off,” she said. “But this morning I had to, and I experienced some road rage there.” She noted that parents used a thoroughfare lane in front of the Elementary School office for parking and drop off. “You’ve waited nicely for your turn, [and then] people pull up next to you and let their kids out where they’re supposed to pull through,” she said.
Superintendent Klein concluded that finding a solution to the MES parking lot problem will be an ongoing process. “We’re continuing down the pathway to get a determination of cost [for an improvement project], and I expect we’ll be coming back to you in the future with a determination of using Developer Fees.”