MAPS changes school bus zones at two buildings

MANISTEE — One of the top priorities of any school district is the safety of their students.

Buses arriving or picking up students at the Manistee Middle/High School will no long do so right in front of the main doors. Starting on Sept. 3 they will leave and pick-up students from an area over by the Paine Aquatic Center.

That not only means when they are within the district’s buildings taking classes, but also when they are arriving and leaving one of those buildings. Because of those safety concerns, students at the Manistee Middle/High School and Jefferson Elementary school buildings will be seeing some changes in the bus and parent drop off areas at those buildings.

Manistee Middle/High School principal Andy Huber and Jefferson Elementary principal Julia Raddatz said it has been a safety concern of school officials for some time.

“I am very pleased with it and since the day we have moved in this building it really has been a challenge to overcome the design of the place,” said Huber. “I have never been in a place where it was designed to bring buses and the public together to drop off students. Even though the public has been very good at how it is supposed to work, bringing up three extra grades to this building over the past few years has really brought a lot more traffic.”

Huber said transportation director Brenda Boyd has talked about separating buses and traffic for some time.

“We took several ideas to the student safety advisory committee and they really had some great input and we decided this was the best way to make sure everyone has a safe way to and from school,” said Huber.

The MAPS Middle/High School principal said bus students will be dropped off and picked up over by the Paine Aquatic Center. They will have two routes they can follow to gain access to the main doors. One route is following the sidewalk that runs along the curb and drive, or they can come up the steps and walk alongside the building.

“In the afternoon when they leave it will be just the opposite as buses will line up in the area by the Paine Aquatic Center and students can walk to get on,” said Huber. “Brenda has a configuration set up for the buses at that location so the kids will not have to walk through any cars to get to their bus.”

The area directly in front of the building will be for parents to drop off or pick up students.

“There is going to be a big drop off and pickup area and what we really need is for parents to be respectful and pull forward enough so everyone can get a chance to drop their child off,” said Huber. “So, the more people who can make use of the entire designated area, the better it is going to work.”

Huber said the two main things they are looking to improve is the separation of traffic and to clear traffic off of 12th Street because that back-up for a while every day is not good.

“We feel that if everyone just uses the space we are laying it will work well,” said Huber. “We are going to refresh all our signs outside the building and use a better color scheme to make them more visible.”

Huber said school officials invite parents to come up a day or two before classes start to review the signs in front of the building, so they are not trying to figure it out on the first day of classes on Sept. 3.

“The first few days we will have personnel outside here to help everyone out, but I think the nice thing RightSide Design came up with is we are going to have some 15 minute parking spots in the inner lane, because we understand sometimes people need to just come in and leave,” said Huber. “So to reserve that visitor parking out there we are going to have several of those 15-minute parking spots.

Jefferson Elementary School will also be making some bus drop off and pickup changes. People driving down Bryant Avenue will notice the addition of several cement bus pads alongside the school. This will now be the area where buses will drop off and pick up students this year and the area in front of the school on Elm Street will be the parent drop off area.

In a recent board of education meeting Raddatz said the change was also needed because of safety concerns. What makes that of an even greater concern is many school buildings were constructed 50 to 60 years ago when students walked to school instead of being bused or driven by parents. Vehicular traffic was much less than what surrounds most school buildings today, when almost the entire student body is bused or driven to the building.

Raddatz recently updated the board of education on concerns they have had at their building with the pick-up and drop off of students. The school is a kindergarten through second grade building, meaning students are the youngest in the district.

“We are looking at changing that to Bryant Street and we will need some concrete landing pads for six buses and then the parent drop off would be were Jefferson Junction is located, right in front of the building,” said Raddatz. “We will have a para pro there so they can help students get out and keep traffic going.”

Boyd told the board her goal with the buses is to tighten the drop off times closer to 7:50 a.m.

“I want to get them there as close to when school starts and not an extra half hour before, so I am going to back everything up at every building,” said Boyd.

Raddatz said the buses will all arrive in a fleet and leave in a fleet.

“So then I can also use the Bryant Street area for the parent rush that happens about 7:53 a.m.,” said Raddatz. “We are trying to be customer service friendly because right now by intercepting in front of the school and pulling half of the traffic back to Bryant we’re hoping parents will have an easier flow. But really it is about student safety.”

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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