School Committee discusses Minot Avenue traffic during school drop off, dismissal times

Apr 9, 2022

The School Committee heard from Wareham Elementary School administrators on the new school’s arrival/dismissal procedures and how morning drop-off has snarled traffic on Minot Avenue as students arrive on campus.

“We have a lot of students,” Principal Bethany Chandler said during the Thursday night meeting, noting that the school building sees 935 students pass through its doors every day.

Since students have moved to the new school building on Minot Avenue, the drop-off and pick-up process has become more efficient and smoother, assistant principal Robin Murphy said. Chandler presented recommendations from the state program “Safe Routes to School,” which studied the school’s traffic procedures to help the school improve them.

On the first day of class, Jan. 4, there was a lot of traffic on Minot Avenue, Chandler said, with many parents eager to see the new school. On Jan. 20, Safe Routes came to the elementary school and observed morning and afternoon traffic, the principal said, recording data about the number of cars in line, traffic on Minot Avenue and other observations.

The Safe Routes program recommended:

  • Dismissing bus riders before students being picked up in a family vehicle at the end of the school day
  • Continue encouraging parents to park in the basketball parking lots in the afternoon to maximize space
  • Consider staggering arrival/dismissal time by grade to reduce congestion
  • Consider publishing a circulation map
  • Consider encouraging carpooling

The school utilizes many of these strategies now, Chandler said, except the staggered arrival/dismissal times. Though the school considered that as an option, Chandler said that for families with children of different grade levels, that might prove difficult to enforce, and families would be inclined to appear at the first dismissal time anyway.

Assistant principal Robin Murphy said she was impressed with the elementary school's work in arrival/dismissal procedures.

“We have them start at 2:50,” Murphy said of the school’s dismissal time, “and the last parent is taking their child out by 3:10. That’s 20 minutes. It’s amazing.”

School Committee member Apryl Rossi asked the elementary school administrators if they’d considered working with the town to add a turn-only lane on Minot Avenue for the school. Rossi said she’s seen cars cross the double-yellow traffic lines to get ahead of the school traffic, and that that could be dangerous for student safety.

Chandler said the addition of a turn-in lane was not included in the Safe Routes recommendations, likely because it would be costly for the school.

School Committee Chair Joyce Bacchiocchi said a traffic study on Minot Avenue was completed as part of the construction of the new school, so thought was given to the congestion.

Discussion turned to what kind of grants might be available through the town’s Road Commission to use for the funding of a new turn lane. A few committee members encouraged the principals to look into those grants to pursue a possible turn-only lane in the future.