New waiting rules take effect at East Side, Church Hill schools

Staff Writer

Starting Thursday, Nov. 1, the “early birds” at two West Point elementary schools will have to change their routines or risk getting a traffic ticket.

After numerous complaints about safety hazards and six weeks of study, school administrators and city leaders are restricting when parents can start lining up in the afternoons along Church Hill Road at Church Hill Elementary and Broad Street at East Side Elementary to pick up students.

Currently, parents start lining up on the road shoulders as early as 1 p.m., 90 minutes before the schools dismiss. As more and more traffic builds up on the shoulder, driving conditions get more hazardous on the two roads, which essentially are reduced to one lane by the waiting cars.

That’s particularly true on Church Hill Road which is busy many times of the day, even without school traffic.

New signs have been installed in front of the two schools warning parents they won’t be allowed to park on the shoulders until school cross guards are in place. Those guards usually take their spots by 2:15 p.m.

The signs currently are covered but will be unwrapped Thursday and police will start enforcing the new rules.

“We really think parents will understand and cooperate once they get the word and make adjustments,” Police Chief Avery Cook said. “We hope so.

“It’s a serious safety concern at both places. I really don’t understand why parents will get there as early as they do. At East Side, having cars parking in front of the school is a problem. At Church Hill, it’s an obvious issue,” he continued.

For the first few days, parents will be notified of the new rules and be asked to move and return later. After several days, police will start writing tickets for parking violations.

The issue came up two months ago during a Board of Selectmen meeting when board members said the number of complaints they were receiving from drivers was increasing.

The city looked at making the streets one way during certain hours, which already is the case at East Side, developing other traffic patterns or seeking alternative parking options. Limiting when parents could start lining up was the best solution, causing the least amount of disruption.

“We really do think people will understand. Everyone will just have to make some adjustments. But we have to be worried about safety first. That has to be the priority,” the chief said.