Traffic backups cause safety concerns for school district

PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER Buses and personal vehicles at Niskayuna High School at dismissal Friday, October 28, 2016.PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER Buses and personal vehicles at Niskayuna High School at dismissal Friday, October 28, 2016.

BY INDIANA NASH

Gazette Reporter

NISKAYUNA- Ask the parents of Niskayuna high schoolers who frequently pick up or drop off their kids and they’ll use a variety of descriptors for the traffic, none of them positive.

Superintendent Dr. Cosimo Tangorra brought the topic of the congestion particularly at the high school, Van Antwerp Middle School, and Hillside Elementary School at Oct. 17 school board meeting.

Tangorra said that he believes the issue is a potential safety concern.

“It’s always been a quiet buzz since I got here,” Tangorra said. He arrived to the position in spring of 2015. But now the buzz has turned into more of a murmur.

Niskayuna Chief of Police Daniel McManus said that while he can’t say that there haven’t been any accidents due to the traffic, it doesn’t seem out of the ordinary.

The length of times where volume is heavy varies by day, but it usually seems heaviest for about 15-20 minutes before school in the morning. After school, particularly at the high school, does not seem to be as much of an issue; from a backup perspective,” McManus said.

Some parents disagree.

Kristin Kennedy, a member of the High School PTO said that the traffic at the high school during peak pick up and drop off times has been congested for a long time.

During the meeting on October 17, Tangorra said that the problems with each school are a safety concern and that solutions will have to be unique to each school.

“What might work for Van Antwerp might not work for the high school,” said Tangorra.

High school principal John Rickert recently spent a few days monitoring the parking lot and helping to direct traffic. While his presence effectively helped lessen the congestion, Tangorra said that it’s not a feasible solution.  

Each school has its own drop-off procedures. Part of the problem is that parents aren’t going by the proper procedures, Tangorra said in the meeting.

He is considering having a safety officer posted on school grounds to help better direct traffic, especially if the drop-off/pick up procedures change.

For the high school, the drop off/pick up process is rather specific: prior to 7:20 a.m., parents must use only the Balltown Road entrance to the school. However, if the student doesn’t have a musical instrument, they should be dropped off at the pool entrance. If the student does have a musical instrument, she/he can be dropped off in the circle entrance at the front of the school.

The Nott Street entrance can only be used for students that are being dropped off after 7:20 a.m.   

Although these procedures are listed on the school’s website, they aren’t always followed.

Another Niskayuna parent said that the way that some parents are dropping their children off is dangerous and that there isn’t a lot of order at the entrances, which makes traffic more congested.

One other cause of congestion is that middle school students who take music classes are dropped off at the high school on certain mornings, adding to the traffic flow.

Paulette Doudoukjian, a Niskayuna mother of two, said that there a number of issues with traffic at the high school, some of which recently led her husband to call the police department.

He strongly feels there needs to be an officer doing traffic control at the Nott Street entrance for about 20-30 minutes every morning.  It really can get quite dangerous there when exiting the school especially,” Doudoukjian said.

But there are a number of things that could alleviate the issue: a double drop off area with two designated drop-off lanes, a separate drop off area for band/orchestra students and traffic monitoring by the police department or another group were some ideas that parents brought up.

“. . . I’m not complaining at all… just concerned, like everyone else, about the safety for the students — those being dropped off and those driving in — to the parents exiting after drop off,” Doudoukjian said.