Glendale city officials have joined forces with police and school district leaders to try to untangle growing traffic congestion and safety problems caused by parents who drop off their youngsters at elementary schools.
Daily congestion has become monumental before and after school at 12 of 19 Glendale Unified School District elementary schools, city and police officials said.
"This year has been the worst by far," said Lt. Rodger Simon, commander of the police traffic bureau.
Simon said growing numbers of parents "seem to desire to drive their children as close as they can to the entrance to the school and to even park or double-park long enough to see the child actually enter the school building."
He attributed much of the problem to an influx of immigrant families, which have swelled enrollment in the last four years. Such families are sometimes unfamiliar with traffic rules and are afraid to let their children walk to school.
The result has been massive tie-ups, with the worst congestion at R. D. White, Keppel, Columbus, Edison and Muir schools, Simon said. At the request of school officials, Glendale City Council members last month directed the city manager and traffic engineer to work with the school district and police to resolve the problem.
Traffic officers are being assigned to two or three schools every morning and afternoon to cite violators. However, their efforts are not enough, even though the city increased the traffic enforcement staff from eight to 14 officers in the last year, Simon said.
Some officials have proposed that members of parent-teacher groups be authorized to issue warnings to drivers who double-park and violate other traffic rules.
"This is more than a school district problem. It is a city problem," said Joann Merrick, district director of elementary education. "Worse yet, it is a parent problem."
Many parents drop their children off in the middle of the block across the street from a school and tell the youngsters to dash through traffic, she said. Two children were slightly injured in September when they were hit by a car as they ran through traffic in front of R. D. White School, Merrick said.
The school district is in the process of reviving its 1970s' "Safe School Route" program, designed to encourage more students to walk to school. Maps showing the location of crossing guards, traffic signals and other safety measures will be distributed within a week or two to students with notes to parents in English, Spanish, Armenian and Vietnamese.
City and school officials are studying each of the campuses to determine what other measures can be taken to relieve congestion, such as posting signs and painting curbs around schools to keep parents from parking while dropping off or picking up children.
In a pilot program at Keppel, where 1,160 children attend class in the same neighborhood with a junior and senior high school, classes this year have been staggered over a 30-minute starting period to reduce the morning congestion, Principal Gordon C. Morse said. Similar programs are being considered at other schools.
District officials are also considering whether to use playground space at some schools, such as R. D. White, for a drive-through, pickup and drop-off route. Merrick said a route could be opened at White as early as next semester. However, she said, playgrounds at most schools are too small and lack access to streets.
"Every school has a different traffic problem," Merrick said. "It's a matter of educating the parents and the students, and the fact that these schools have a lot more kids than they were intended to have."