School traffic addressed at La Mesa meeting

“There are 40 moms [each driving] with one kid."

Rolando Elementary School
  • Rolando Elementary School

Three of the ten speakers at the City of La Mesa's Town Hall meeting on February 6 talked about the effect of school traffic in their neighborhoods. Two residents spoke about traffic around Rolando Elementary School, the site of the meeting. The third resident, a Helix High School alumnus, discussed traffic around the campus now known as Helix Charter High School.

Rolando Elementary School is on the west side of Tower Street, a road that intersects 70th Street. There are some parking spaces in front of the school. Across the street, a sign warns, “No parking, no stopping, no standing.”

Sandy Hernandez lives on Terry Lane, which is west of the school. She spoke about the congestion caused when drivers drop off children. "People double-park, triple-park, quadruple-park," she said. They "feel like they have to get in front of the school."

Drivers remain parked until they see the children enter the school building, said Hernandez. Meanwhile, residents are unable to leave their driveways.

Councilman Mark Arapostathis, a teacher in the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District, said that situation occurs 50 minutes before school starts and 15 minutes after classes end at 2:45 p.m. Arapostathis spoke about solutions, including the "walking school bus," which is part of La Mesa's Safe Routes program http://www.casaferoutestoschool.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/La-Mesa-SRTS-Guide.pdf .

The bus "driver" is an adult volunteer who walks a group of students from a designated location to the school. For Rolando Elementary, there's a "bus stop" at 70th Street and Colony Drive.

Arapostathis added that the school-resource officer Bonnie McDaniel could cite drivers.

Mayor Art Madrid said he would call the school.

Michelle Foster said she echoed Hernandez's statements and called the time before and after school "the crazed parents time."

Mike Golden said that he lives on Yale Avenue near Helix Charter and went to Helix High. Because of school traffic at around 3 p.m., he "can't get out," but wasn't complaining. "I hear in two years that the office will be moved to the east side," he said. "Will the traffic patterns be changed?"

City manager David Witt told Golden to stay in touch with public works director Gregory Humora. Witt said, "The issue of traffic around schools is not a new issue. Your concerns are our concerns."

Police chief Ed Aceves said in the 1950s and 1960s that "schools were designed for neighborhoods, not traffic flow." He said La Mesa has a school-resource officer and the city sends a letter each year to parents about traffic.

He offered a whimsical solution for Rolando Elementary: "If only we could build a ramp to drop off" students.

Witt said schools were designed for school buses, which were eliminated due to cutbacks. There used to be "one vehicle with 40 kids, now "there are 40 moms [each driving] with one kid."

La Mesa holds two town halls annually, forums where residents can ask questions and discuss concerns with the city council. The second meeting is February 18 at Northmont Elementary School.

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The show that the patrol boys and girls put on every morning is truly spectacular. It's like watching a mini-Busby Berkeley number. I've been detained by the pageantry many times. Where else can you get such synchronized entertainment without leaving your car?

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