Hollister School District board president Stephen Kain has made it a top priority to help alleviate the traffic safety issues at local schools during dropoff and pickup times.
Kain, who has been part of a committee trying to identify the best corrective measures to solve the lingering issues brought up parents at meetings, said some will go into effect before the start of the 2019-20 school year. He said the pickup time after the end of the school day is where the bigger problem lies.
At Marguerite Maze Middle School and Gabilan Hills Elementary School (which shares a campus with Hollister Dual Language Academy), Kain has advocated staggered start and release times by about an hour to reduce the number of vehicles in the school zone at one time. “That way we will be able to have pickup areas for students at both schools at different times,” said Kain, noting another plan is to put in a 6-foot-high fence along the walkway on the left-hand side from Maze to Gavilan Hills. “What we’re trying to do is spread these people out and eliminate some of the congestion.”
Kain said the plan is to implement these traffic calming measures by the start of the next school year.
“We will also have letters going home to parents to let them know about the areas for dropoff and pickup,” he added.
The board has been tackling the issue since several parents have brought up growing safety and traffic concerns at recent school board meetings. Trustees asked district staff to provide an assessment at the schools where it has become a problem, such as Gabilan Hills/HDLA, Calavera/Accelerated Achievement Academy, R.O. Hardin/Hollister Prep School and Maze.
District Director of Facilities John Teliha gave an “ Pickup/DropOff and Traffic Conditions” update to the school board at its April 23 meeting. In that assessment, Teliha identified various factors causing the problems:
- Parents arriving 45 minutes to one hour before dismissal;
- Vehicles blocking access to school parking lot and traffic on roadways adjacent to school sites;
- Roads in front of schools are “very busy”;
- Limited parking and sidewalks on roadways adjacent to some schools;
- Vehicles parked illegally and violating traffic laws;
- Parents parking and walking into the school site to pick up students;
- School parking lots are not large enough to accommodate vehicles; and
- Not enough staff to assist in traffic flow.
Staff and school site administrators met to discuss possible ways to improve conditions and prioritized those improvements based on difficulty of implementation. District staff has sent letters to parents, drawn out pickup/dropoff maps, provided safe routes to schools and promoted walking and riding school buses. Staff has also met with the Hollister Police Department and with City of Hollister and San Benito County Traffic Engineers.
Before the 2019-20 school year, district staff plans to further assess start and end times and additional busing; improving parking and traffic markings and signs; and whether intra-district transfers and new school boundaries would help alleviate the traffic problem, according to Teliha’s report.
Kain is not a fan of one traffic-calming measure implemented by city officials in front of Maze, where it is now illegal to make a left-hand turn off Meridian into the school.
“If the parents can’t make that left-hand turn, they are parking on the right and the kids have to walk across along four lanes of traffic. I’m not happy with that personally,” Kain said. “We were not consulted on that. The city hired an agency to go over traffic flow, and this was their recommendation.”
Kain believes the better method is by staggering start and end times on campuses that have more than one school program and adding dropoff and pickup areas.
“We’re working on those things,” Kain said. “We do have a plan.”