Urbana City Schools parents are concerned about dangerous drivers and traffic patterns around elementary schools, but police and school administrators say changes are unlikely with new school buildings on the horizon.
“Understand that it is a problem just not for the individual driver, but for everyone,” Urbana Police Division Chief Matt Lingrell said.
Lingrell said he’s been dealing with the issue for more than a decade and that his officers have had to respond to disputes between parents and drivers on occasion. Some parents to do follow the traffic patterns in place, he said, while others exhibit poor driving habits near the schools.
“The elementary schools are where we have our problems,” he said.
Lingrell said he would like to have an officer at all of the district’s four schools at the beginning and end of each school day, but he doesn’t have the staff to do that.
While all three elementaries present problems for parents picking up and dropping off their children, Lingrell said North and South elementaries are the worst.
Emily MacKendrick went to South Elementary, located on U.S. Route 68, and now has a son in the second grade at the school.
“I just think it’s awful,” MacKendrick said.
She said she waits as long as she can before she drops her son off in the morning to try and avoid some of the mess.
“I drop him off in the morning usually right at the class bell,” she said. “The schools themselves can’t improve it. It is what it is. I think people could be more mindful of parking and children.”
Superintendent Charles Thiel said part of the problem is the age of the buildings. He said North Elementary was built in 1901 and South was built in 1922, long before every family had a car.
“They didn’t have cars and people didn’t come pick up their children from school in the way that they do now, and it’s just poorly designed,” Thiel said.
He added he is open to suggestions on how to improve the situation. But Thiel does not anticipate any major systematic changes because the district is scheduled to open up a new elementary school in 2018. He said the new schools should have much more parking, which will alleviate most of the current problems.
“The design will make a huge difference on how we go about getting people to our site,” Thiel said.
For now, MacKendrick said she will continue to take her son to school in the morning and make the best of the situation.
“I think they are doing all they can at this point,” she said.