Parents press for safer school entrances

Published 10:49 pm Thursday, November 10, 2011

LeeAnn Reeder, who has students at King’s Fork Middle and High schools, wants to find a solution for the dense traffic the schools experience in the mornings and afternoons.

LeeAnn Reeder is a woman on a mission.

As a parent of a student at King’s Fork High School and a student at King’s Fork Middle School, she has spent a lot of time dealing with the traffic between the two schools in the morning and the afternoon.

She spoke at Thursday’s School Board meeting to plead for a solution.

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“I’m extremely concerned,” she said. “I just want something done before someone gets injured or killed.”

With the combination of buses, hurried parents, novice high school drivers and dense traffic, Reeder said, it’s an accident waiting to happen.

She said she’s seen several near misses when a car tried to beat a bus into the entrance of the high school.

“I know who is going to win that one,” she said.

She also said people tend to ignore the “No left turn between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.” signs posted at the middle school that prohibit left turns out of the school between 7 and 8 a.m.

Jay Spencer, a concerned middle school parent, also voiced his concern about the traffic at Thursday’s meeting.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see there’s a problem,” he said. “Someone is going to get killed or badly injured.”

Reeder said her biggest concern is that an incident will take place like a 2004 accident at the entrance of Nansemond River High School that seriously injured a female student.

Since 2004, the stretch of King’s Fork Road from Godwin Boulevard to Matoaka Road has seen 124 accidents, none of which were fatal.

But Reeder worries it’s only a matter of time.

“Something bad is going to happen eventually,” she said.

But Reeder isn’t just waiting around for a solution; she is working toward one.

For the past two weeks, she has been making calls to city and school officials, monitoring traffic in the morning and afternoons and developing solutions to offer to the city. In addition to her speech last night, she plans to appeal to City Council next week.

During her research, Reeder said, she’s spoken to assistant superintendent Kevin Alston, city traffic engineer Robert Lewis, both school principals and King’s Fork Middle’s PTA president.

In her talk with Alston, she said, the assistant superintendent revealed his plan to help with the problem at King’s Fork Middle. He wants to add a new exit road to the parking lot and redirect pick up and drop up traffic.

While she thinks it’s not a bad idea, Reeder said, she worries about the time and money it will take to get it done. It also doesn’t address the problem at the high school or the problem of distracted drivers.

Ideally, Reeder said, she thinks a traffic light should be installed at the intersection of King’s Fork Road and Boundary Drive, which is directly across from the entrance to the middle school. All parents would use that intersection as an entrance to either school while buses will use the other King’s Fork High entrance.

However, Reeder said, she recognizes the flaws in this plan — traffic lights cost a lot of money and time.

“A traffic light would be a good long-term solution,” she said. “But I would like something that would be implemented quickly to avoid loss of life.”

But to have a light installed, an intersection must meet a set of stringent guidelines. The King’s Fork intersection doesn’t meet them.

To save money and time, Reeder is proposing the student drop-off and pick-up traffic at the high school be redirected away from the bus parking lot and “No Left Turn” signs like the ones at King’s Fork Middle be installed at King’s Fork High.

“That way it allows traffic to flow smoothly from both schools away from the school while allowing the option of crossing from one school to the other,” she said. “I think this would be a much better alternative.”

Spencer said although the extra signs will create an inconvenience for some parents, he thinks it’s worth it.

“If it’s right turn only, there won’t be a traffic problem,” he said. “It takes more time, but it makes it safe.”

Reeder said she knows her plans aren’t perfect, but she just wants to get ideas out there so something can be done before a family loses a loved one.

She said she hopes concerned parents actively press their School Board and City Council members to do something about it.

“I want people to stop griping to each other and start griping to their Council members and School Board members,” Reeder said. “I want them to keep telling them until something is done before loss of life or injury occurs.”