3/12/2013 11:13:00 AM Williams Elementary-Middle School parking lot to get overhaul Under proposed design, existing bus loop to become parent drop off zone, all cars to enter at Edison Ave. and Seventh St. intersection
School buses line up in the Williams Elementary-Middle School bus loop to pick up students at the end of the day. Marissa Freireich/WGCN
Going to and from school should become easier and safer this fall because of improvements planned for the Williams-Elementary Middle School (WEMS) parking lot this summer.
Williams Unified School District (WUSD) Superintendent Rachel Savage and Business Manager Melissa Ellico outlined the project at the Feb. 27 governing board meeting.
The district received a $175,000 Safe Routes to School grant last summer for improving safety in the WEMS parking lot.
"Buses, cars and pedestrians ideally should be in completely separate zones to mitigate risk of a horrific accident that could harm a teacher, parent or student," Savage said. "This grant is going to allow us to completely eliminate the buses from the scenario in our parking lot."
Under the proposed design, the existing bus loop will become the parent drop off zone.
Currently, concrete barriers block a parent drop off lane within the parking lot, which was a temporary solution.
"One of the problems we're finding now with the barricades in place is that parents get stuck," Ellico said. "You'll have the first car in line waiting for 15 minutes for their kid, all the other parents in line have their kids but can't get out."
With the new plan, all cars will enter at the Edison Avenue and Seventh Street intersection. Drivers will turn left to park and right to enter the parent drop off loop. The row of parking on the west side will be removed to allow for parents to exit the loop at any time. The row of parking on the east side will be used for visitor parking.
A new bus loop will go to the north of the current parking areas. Buses will exit the loop at the current loading dock road. A new sidewalk will run along the new bus loop and connect to an existing city sidewalk leading to houses north of the school.
The current bus barn on the south side of the parking lot will be partitioned off, creating a separate area for buses.
School board president David Nenne said he liked the plan but had one concern.
"Currently buses drop students off just within a few feet of a doorway and so in bad weather they only have a few feet to walk before they're inside the building," he said. "This will be a much longer walk in the rain and snow but some things can't be helped."
Savage said there are some grants available that may allow the district to cover the area in the future.
Savage said she expects construction to begin on the project in June or July. The project should take about two weeks.
The Safe Routes to School grant will pay for the new bus loop and sidewalk. The project will also require some re-striping of the parking lot, which is already in the district's budget as an annual maintenance cost.