I suppose every school's first day, and even the first week is a little chaotic. The pick-up and drop off locations are new to many parents, and certainly new to kids starting school for the first time.
That is no different at Thorman & Currie. What is different in this case is that the surrounding streets, and even the school's entrances and exits aren't designed for the amount of traffic generated during pick-up and drop-off times. It is so bad, I thought I should post about it.
First, don't think that I'm just bashing the school or the administration. That is not the point or the intention of this post. However, I do feel that with the influx of new students, the school was woefully unprepared on day 1 and still today hasn't found a good process for this. I will be bringing this up to the PTA team, and escalate from there until a good solution is found.
Some parents I talked to said that the school's attendance number is almost double from what it was last year. While I can't confirm this for sure, I know that the closure of Veeh definitely added a lot of kids to Thorman. I can understand how this could be a logistical nightmare for the school.
In the school's defense, I have seen a lot of staff helping parents drop off and pick up their kids as quickly and smoothly as possible, but I believe this can't be a permanent solution. The staff is mostly stationed inside of the property in the drop off loops, there is no oversight beyond the curb.
That's where the danger zone is. I also understand that they probably can't help people outside of the school property for liability reasons.
This is where you and I come in.
We can't always expect someone else to take care of the issues. This is an issue that affects the school, the parents, the kids, and the neighborhood. Imagine trying to get to work and realizing it takes you 10 minutes to leave your driveway because there are hundreds of parents trying to drop off their kids down the street. The gridlock is crazy. Tempers can escalate quickly as everybody is trying to get to their next destination on time.
Being late is one thing, but the real concern for me is safety.
Over the past two weeks, I've personally witnessed at least four extremely close calls where a frustrated or distracted driver tried to weave in and out of traffic and almost hit a parent or a child, missing them by mere feet or less.
The last incident I witnessed prompted me to write this. I yelled and closed my eyes expecting to hear the terrifying sound of screeching tires and a thump. I couldn't do anything more.
Fortunately, nothing happened. But that's too close for comfort for me.
Our current options
Next, I'll go over some of the options we have as parents when dropping off or picking up our kids. I made a map to illustrate what I'm referring to.
The map shows the 3 marked crosswalks, two of them have crossing guards. The three small icons near the “danger” zone represent the staff that helps parents move in and out as fast as possible.
Before we get into the options, it is worth noting that adding a crosswalk seems like the obvious solution, but after doing some research I'm not sure it would actually fix this or provide any additional or significant level of safety compared to the current situation.
It seems that there is a lot of research and studies that indicate a crosswalk increases accidents instead of decreasing them as intended.
Take a look at this:
The City of San Diego studied intersections at which there were both marked and unmarked crosswalks. The results were surprising. Although 2.5 times as many people used the marked crosswalks, six times as many accidents occurred in the marked crosswalks. A pedestrian safety study in Long Beach reported eight times as many accidents in marked crosswalks compared to unmarked crosswalks. Similar studies in other cities have confirmed these results.https://www.cityofirvine.org/signal-operations-maintenance/crosswalks
Drive through the pick-up/drop-off loops.
There are two small loops where you can drive through and drop off or pick up your kids. One is for Currie and one is for Thorman. The downside to this option is the delay to get through each section. Coming in or out creates major bottlenecks. Also, if you are like me and like to walk your kids to the gate, then this is not really an option.
The most important tip I can give you on this scenario is to pull forward all the way before you let your kids out or let them in the car. It seems easy to just stop for a moment to let them out, but if you're not all the way forward then you're causing other cars behind you to stay on the street, block exiting traffic, and perpetuate the bottleneck.
The flow design for traffic easily creates an ouroboros type of situation, and I've seen it happen where the people getting out are blocking people from getting in, but those people trying to get in are blocking the other people from getting out and everyone's stuck.
Street parking is very limited, but if you arrive early (7:40 or earlier) you may find a parking spot along the side of the street. The safest side is the school side. I don't believe parking on the church side of the street is safe at all. You can park on Sycamore, or School Lane, or on Devonshire (my suggestion) see map.
Park and walk: the church parking lot.
It seems that the church is okay with us parking there. A recent newsletter from the school even mentions this as an option. It is also officially recommended by the school's policy:
If you would like to meet your child at the gate, you will need to park in front of the school or at St. Cecilia’s Church.https://www.tustin.k12.ca.us/thorman/about-our-school/policies-procedures
However, and this is probably for legal reasons, the newsletter doesn't tell you where you should cross the street. But nearly everyone that parks in the church parking lot end up crossing the street directly.
This is the most unsafe part of this whole scenario. This is precisely where I have seen several near-miss accidents. I crossed here many times during the first couple of weeks but I no longer will do that. This area is marked as “danger” with the gray-orange square in the map.
Park and walk: Burger King parking lot.
There is a shopping center about 1500ft (500m) walking distance. I know some parents park near Burger King and then walk to school with their kids. This seems like a safe option, however, there are a few things to consider.
You have to walk on the sidewalk on Redhill, some parents think this is not really safe because drivers are distracted, and rushing to get wherever they're going. Also on the way to the school, your back is turned to oncoming traffic so you can't really anticipate if a bad or distracted driver is coming your way.
The other thing to consider is that the shopping center's parking lot is patrolled by security and a tow truck. I haven't talked to them officially, but it seems that they're very particular about people using the parking lot when they're not patronizing the businesses. I'm not taking any chances because, with my luck, I'll be the one and only to get towed or get a ticket when I park there.
Park and walk: Tustin Meadows (Devonshire).
If you are going to park and walk your kid to school. I think this might the safest option. You can go into the Tustin Meadows neighborhood and park curbside to Devonshire. I think this is technically a couple of hundred feet closer than Burger King but ultimately depends on where exactly you park. Notice there is no parking along Sycamore once you are in the Tustin Meadows side of Redhill. You need to go in past the stop sign.
The only caveat for this location is that you have to cross Redhill. This is alleviated with the crossing guard that will come and walk you, so I think it's as safe or safer than parking by Burger King.
Update. One of the crossing guards is totally clueless. Often misses the lights, often lets people cross when they shouldn't. PLEASE do not rely on anybody else but yourself to determine if it's safe to cross, even with the green WALK sign. Remain vigilant at all times.
Be respectful and extra vigilant no matter what. We're all trying to get our kids or drop them off, there is nothing that makes any one of us more important than the rest of us so be courteous and patient. Follow the laws. I have noticed a police officer monitoring the area and I have seen them pull people over after they leave the school. Seems that he may be giving tickets or warnings, but I'm not sure.
Try to park on the side of the school if you're going to park and walk. If you can find a spot along the streets, like School lane, or Sycamore that means that you won't have to cross any streets. But those parking spots are rare.
If you can park in the Tustin Meadows neighborhood, it takes about 7 minutes to get to the school, you'll have to cross Redhill but at least you have a proper crossing walkway “protected” by a traffic light and a crossing guard. That's my suggestion and what I've been doing for the past couple of days.
I spoke to Mr. Plascencia this morning 8/26/19. The school is aware of the situation and they have taken steps to remedy the situation. The motorcycle officer that you see sometimes roaming around the area may be surveying the situation as the school and city work to assess the impact and possible improvements or solutions. Mr. Plascencia thinks he's not citing people at this time and simply will report back to the city to determine what if anything can be done about this.
After talking to Mr. Plascencia, I am inclined to think that there is not a whole lot we can do about this at this time and within a reasonable course of action. It seems to me that the only way to actually fix this would be to physically restructure the streets surrounding the school, perhaps widening Service Road and School Lane. After looking at all the maps, and the flow of traffic, I have a feeling that the way it is right now is as good as it's going to be for the foreseeable future, so just stay safe.