SUMMIT, NJ - The Summit Board of Education on Thursday presented a plan for ferrying cars in and out of the rear Lincoln-Hubbard Elementary School rear parking lot during dismissal of students and construction of additional parking spaces on nearby McGregor Road to solve what school officials said were traffic congestion and safety issues in the school area.
Lincoln-Hubbard parents and other residents who spoke at the public forum about the proposal said it was too expensive, would not stop safety and traffic congestion in the area and would reduce a valuable piece of green space in the northern area of the city.
Michael Wozny, a consultant for the board on the project, placed the total cost, exclusive of “soft” costs such as permits and architectural fees, at $373,000, with another $95,000 to be spent on “soft” costs.
About 40% of the total, or $187,000 would come from a state grant, with the remainder to be born by the city and the school board.
Wozny added a “freeze and release” plan would have parents picking up students by entering the rear parking lot of the school off Crescent Avenue around 2:50 pm and parking in a line after entering a queue. Cars not in the queue by 3 pm would not be permitted to enter the lot. Parents could then leave their cars to get their children.
The plan also calls for the addition of 18 parking spaces on McGregor Road that would be used by school staff members and construction of a gravel path from the school to the McGregor Road parking area.
Lincoln-Hubbard principal, Matt Carlin, said a simulation of the new pickup arrangement had been conducted from November 30 to December 10 of last year with about 40 vehicles driven by parents of first and second graders at the school involved.
A survey taken of simulation participants found 81.5% respondents very or satisfied or somewhat satisfied that it would be safer for the children and 18.5% not satisfied. Among those who had not participated 43% were very or somewhat satisfied with the safety aspect of the proposal while 47% were not satisfied it would improve safety.
Speaking at the hearing, former Summit Planning Board member, B.J. Colgan, said she was concerned the plan would create road rage among drivers not able to get into the queue in time to pick up their children and the vehicles of those choosing not to follow the plan would park on neighboring streets, such as Sherman Avenue and McGregor.
Currently, she added, when cars park on both sides of Sherman Avenue, drivers often have to “play chicken” to get down the street safely.
Another Sherman Avenue resident said proposals to create parking for the convenience of teachers should not be combined with those aimed at making the area safer.
He added the board had not studied the impact of the plan on neighboring streets, the safety of children in the school playground not more than five feet from the pickup area had not been factored in and the school body had not carefully considered that the plan would cause the loss of 15% of the green space in the only park area in the north side of Summit.
Another resident said the timing of the pickups meant her children would lose 15 minutes of valuable education time and cars entering and exiting the queues also would have to deal with Kent Place school traffic.
Other residents said addition of blacktop in the school area would aggravate already poor stormwater drainage in the area.
Ken Lindhorst said if school officials believed there were problems with double parking or parking on crosswalks in the school area more monitoring and greater enforcement were needed.
He added, “Why should we have prima donna parking for teachers. Why can’t they pay to park in private lots in the city like Summit employees of private firms?”
Mary Beth Robb of Lincoln Avenue said the board should explore no cost or low cost solutions to the safety problem.
Mayor Jordan Glatt, responding to resident suggestions that a police officer be assigned to the area for greater enforcement of traffic regulations, said the same demand had come from officials in each of the city’s five elementary schools.
He noted the Common Council already had voted down increasing the police force and, if residents wanted additional police they would have to make their voices heard with their elected officials.
Board President Jack Lyness said the proposal was “about safety and not about parking. Anyone who has had a child at the school is fearful that it is only a matter of time before a child is struck on Crescent Avenue.”
He added the proposal came from a recommendation of the committee formed to deal with the issues and Thursday’s meeting was aimed at obtaining community input.
“Nothing has been decided nor has the superintendent made a recommendation to the board as to how he believes we should proceed,” Lyness added.
He also noted parking only became a significant issue because the rerouting of traffic eliminated a number of parking spots near the school.
Superintendent of Schools Nathan Parker said information on further steps in planning for Lincoln-Hubbard site improvements would be posted on the school district’s website.
He added the board would make the decision about whether another public forum will be held on the issue.
In business at its regular meeting following the forum, the board heard presentations on proposed 2011-2012 school budgets from Athletic Director Michael Sandor, Assistant Superintendent Julie Glazer, on curriculum, and Special Services Director Jane Kachmar-Desonne on special education.
Sandor noted the proposed athletic budget would decrease by 0.7%, chiefly due to a decrease in fees for physicians attending to athletes and elimination of a proposed purchase of a wrestling mat from the budget.
Curriculum costs will drop buy 9.85%, due to a number of savings in technology, Glazer said, while Kachmar-Desonne noted special education costs will decrease by 5.42%, partially due to the fact that the district has found ways to handle special education students within the city rather than sending them to other districts.
The board also heard a forensic presentation by high school forensics team president, Tina Sanyour, about how being a non-conformist fosters creativity and a presentation on the use of interactive notebooks by several Lincoln-Hubbard students.