By Ben Shapiro, Co-Copy Editor and Evan Lu, News Editor Senior Mark Robertson parks at his friend’s house in the morning and walks the remaining 0.4 miles to school. He finds that he arrives at school earlier than if he were to drive the entire way. All three main roads that lead to the school...
By Ben Shapiro, Co-Copy Editor and Evan Lu, News Editor
Senior Mark Robertson parks at his friend’s house in the morning and walks the remaining 0.4 miles to school. He finds that he arrives at school earlier than if he were to drive the entire way.
All three main roads that lead to the school — Conestoga Road, Irish Road and Old Lancaster Road — experience stand-still traffic between 7:20 a.m. and 7:45 a.m. During both arrival and dismissal times, the nearly-half-mile radius around the school sees a surplus of walkers, drivers and bus riders.
According to Arthur McDonnell, TESD business manager and school board secretary in charge of transportation, the district encouraged parents to consider driving their children to school this school year. The intended goal was to relieve some bus routes of students.
“We requested that parents consider driving their children to school to alleviate some of the need for buses,” McDonnell said. “At some schools, this has led to more traffic at drop-off and pick-up windows, which in turn creates some delays in getting the buses in and out of the school property.”
Michelle Major, police traffic sergeant for the Tredyffrin Township traffic committee, has seen an influx of complaints regarding the blockage of major roads near the school.
“The arrival and dismissal times cause congestion and major backups at the intersections in and around the school. We get complaints about the roads adjoining or near the school (because) the parents come and stack up as they wait for their kids to get out (of school); it annoys the residents,” Major said.
While the traffic committee and police officers are doing their best to maintain safety during the rush hours, Major believes that because of the number of parents picking students up, there is not much they can do to alleviate the problem altogether.
“What we do is monitor (the roads) the best we can. There’s nowhere for (us police) to go, and movement is very difficult because of how congested it is. We kind of just let it take its course: it’s about 30 minutes of mayhem in the morning and 30 minutes of mayhem in the afternoon. We do the best we can, but there’s not a whole lot we can do,” Major said.
The increase in traffic has students worried about arriving late to school. Senior Julia Roth finds the rush of getting to school every day stressful.
“I drive my sister (to school), so I don’t leave until 7:30 because she’s slow (to get ready) in the morning. I usually get to school at 7:48 because the traffic isn’t (any better) after those big rushes calm down,” Roth said. “I get to (my first-period class) usually right as the bell rings. It’s alright, but definitely anxiety-inducing.”
With hopes of getting around the worst of the traffic, many parents and student drivers started arriving at school extra early. For the first three weeks of school, these students congregated outside from 7 a.m. until 7:30 a.m., when the doors would open and allow students inside. They were not allowed to walk around the building until 7:30 a.m., due to a lack of adult supervision in the building before 7:25 a.m. With the change of the seasons, the district announced on Sept. 17 that they would allow students to enter the building at 7:15 a.m., staying in the cafeteria and atrium until 7:30 a.m., when students could walk around the rest of the school.
Those who get a ride from their parents at the end of the school day notice the long lines of traffic as well. When sophomore Julia Mailey and her sister get picked up by their dad at the end of the day, it can take them up to 45 minutes to arrive home.
“Getting home became a big production because there would be so much traffic and we wouldn’t even get out of school for 30 minutes,” Mailey said. “Also, getting out of that drop-off circle became a whole other situation because of how many cars were there.”
Transportation troubles: Navigating new ways home
Students face busing obstacles
Schools nationwide are facing bus driver shortages, as the pandemic prompted many existing drivers to retire amidst shrinking applicant pools for new hires. As a result, the district assigned more students per bus route. Most buses are now rostered at 70 students, while past years saw averages of 50 students per bus, according to the transportation department. This shift increased bus rides to an average of 50 minutes — a 50% increase from previous years. The district would need an additional 36 drivers to reduce the times again.
“I took the bus for the first week or so to school. The pickup time kept changing every day, but when the bus started to regularly come at 6:27, I stopped taking it,” freshman Aditya Kothari said. “I had my mom and dad drive me to school (because) I did not want to get on the bus at 6:27 for school at 7:50.”
Living seven minutes away from Conestoga, Kothari was frustrated that he would have to get on the school bus almost an hour and a half before the school day began. Fortunately, his parents are now able to drive him to school in the mornings.
With the shared experience of a very early pick-up time, sophomore Daryna Myastkovska would have to get on her bus 54 minutes before the start of school. Arranging a drop-off plan with her older brother, Myastkovska followed suit and opted out of taking the bus in the mornings because of its “inefficient” route.
“In the mornings, my brother usually takes me (to school) by car now because we don’t live too far away. I would take the bus, but the problem is that it comes at 6:56 in the morning — a whole hour before school starts. And I’m not wasting that much time just to take the bus,” Myastkovska said.
Problems in the parking lot
Many seniors take advantage of the opportunity to park at school every day. Assistant Principal Dr. Patrick Boyle says this school year saw the largest number of students apply for parking permits in 13 years. While he speculates that this increase is due to greater access to cars with more parents working from home, there is no evidence to prove this theory.
“We have 265 parking spaces in the student lot, (but) I gave out 300 (parking passes) because looking at the percentages of students that drive on a daily basis over the last 11 years, (the statistics) showed that we would be able to fit those kids on a daily basis and maybe have a couple of spots left over,” Boyle said.
As part of the multi-million dollar expansion project, a new parking lot was added to the north entrance of Conestoga to account for the increase in student enrollment. Before the addition, there were two parking lots: a larger one for students with a sectioned-off area for faculty and a smaller lot designated specifically for faculty. The implementation of the third lot removed 90 spots from the faculty section of the main parking lot and gave them to students. The majority of faculty parking was then moved to the old faculty lot and the new north lot.
Due to supply-chain issues and the COVID-19 pandemic, the projected completion date of the new parking lot was pushed back more than a year from the summer of 2020 to Sept. 1, 2021. After the first week of school, the faculty should have been able to move out of the main parking lot to make room for the 300 driving students, but the completion date was pushed back even further.
Until Sept. 30 — a month after the school year began — there were only 265 parking spots available for the 300 students. Senior Hannah Kuryan, one of the 35 students who was told she would have a parking spot once the new lot opened, experienced many complications during the first month of school.
“After I heard that I wasn’t going to have a parking spot for the first week of school — I thought it would only be a week then — I texted my friend and asked if I could park at her house because she lives a seven-minute walk away from school,” Kuryan said. “And yes, I timed it because I was getting frustrated with having to walk.”
Leaving the parking lot in the afternoon can be as difficult as getting in in the morning. While Kothari’s parents were able to give him a ride to school to alleviate the burden of taking the bus, he relies on his senior friends who park in the parking lot to get home at the end of the school day.
“As soon as school ends, (my friends and I) literally sprint to the parking lot and get in the car as fast as we can. We normally have to wait in the parking lot for 15-20 minutes, but some days we (get out) earlier,” Kothari said.
In efforts to bypass the traffic on the way to and from school, some students, like Kuryan, are asking their friends who live close to the school to park in their driveways. Even though senior Mark Robertson has a parking pass, he has noticed that parking off-campus gets him to school faster. Walking five minutes away from school and getting on the road before other students and buses start driving is how he best avoids traffic.
“There was one day I kept hearing ridiculous stories of people waiting in the parking lot for an hour,” Robertson recalls. “I walked to (my friend’s house), went inside, got a drink, talked to his mom, got in the car and (drove) home. At that point, it had been a good 45 minutes since school had gotten out, and when I Snapchatted somebody, they were still in the parking lot.”
Expressing what much of the student population is thinking, Krebs is annoyed at the traffic issues, to say the least.
“The traffic is insane — actually insane,” Krebs said. “There is just too much of it. Getting home takes too long.”
Ben Shapiro can be reached at [email protected]
Evan Lu can be reached at [email protected]
© 2021 Spoke.News. All rights reserved.