CLAYTON -- Mt. Diablo Elementary School families started the fall term with a new traffic pattern intended to reduce long lines of cars in the neighborhood and what has been a frustrating experience for parents dropping off and picking up children.
Admitting that there is "no true fix," Police Chief Chris Thorsen said he is hopeful that the new design -- where buses and students in grades K-2 are delivered and retrieved in front of the school on Mt. Zion Drive, and older students arrive and leave by Pine Hollow Road -- will improve safety and traffic flow.
Students are also picked up and dropped off at the bottom of the hill on Oak Street, where parent patrols make sure it is done safely.
"I won't have a real view of what is happening up there for a few weeks," Thorsen said.
With a school population of 819, Mt. Diablo is considered a large elementary school, and Thorsen noted that, "The school was built in an era when everybody walked to school or road a bike."
A county-managed 511 Contra Costa program called Street Smarts was the source for about $35,000 in funding for traffic improvements because the school participated in the 511 Traffic Safety Education program, according to Street Smarts special project coordinator Munni Krishna.
Thorsen, City Engineer Rick Angrisani, Principal Irene Keenan, a Parent Faculty Club representative and Krishna collaborated, as stakeholders, on the new traffic design, which was approved by the City Council.
Krishna emphasized that the Street Smarts program is intended to equitably improve safety for all modes of transportation, including pedestrian and bicycle traffic at the site.
Newly painted lanes, curbs and directional signage were completed just in time for school opening, and Krishna said 511 funding paid for a parent information presentation, distribution of 2,000 maps and making sure a diagram of the traffic flow plan is on the Mt. Diablo Elementary School website at http://mdes-mdusd-ca.schoolloop.com.
When school started, PFC members helped facilitate the plan by directing traffic and supervising pedestrian movement in front of the school. Krishna praised Mt. Diablo Elementary parent cooperation. "They proved to be very intelligent, patient and understanding."
Club president Ernest DeTrinidad said there seemed to be less traffic congestion this fall.
"I think it is working," he said. "It just getting used to it."
Although the first few days went smoothly, special education teacher Alice Anderson noticed that some people were still stopping to wait for children, and Principal Keenan said she is concerned about pedestrians crossing where incoming traffic turns left onto Mt. Zion Drive.
Keenan noted a parent suggestion that, if a child was not at the pickup location when his or her parent arrived, it would be helpful to use the same technique that is used at airports, where drivers are asked to circle back, instead of waiting.
Krishna said that idea might be something to consider when the stakeholders meet again to review the situation.
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