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School board aims to ease Enota traffic ills

POSTED: March 15, 2008 5:00 a.m.
ROBIN MICHENER NATHAN /The Times

Traffic backs up on Enota Avenue as Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy lets out at 2:30 p.m. on Monday.

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Gainesville school officials hope that parking and other changes at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy will help ease traffic woes, particularly in the morning when parents park to walk their children into school.

As of Monday, those parents are being directed to a parking area behind the gymnasium and a path into school that will "help eliminate the problem of the children walking across the parking lot," Principal Sally Meadors told the Gainesville City Board of Education Monday night.

Previously, parents and staff members parked wherever they found a space, with children and adults walking in front of cars to get into the school.

Also, parents will have five designated areas in a single lane of traffic at the back of the school to drop off children.

"When all five cars have (dropped off) their children or picked their children up, then all five will leave at the same time," Meadors said.

"We’re hoping that will help us with traffic flow, not only (in the car line) but also on (Enota Avenue) as cars enter Enota."

The plan drew praise from board members, except that David Syfan asked that school officials explore the idea of a raised pedestrian crosswalk in front of the school and report back at the board’s March 17 meeting.

A parking lot at the front of the school was closed earlier in the year to car traffic. Only buses dropping off or picking up children are allowed there now.

"At all the other schools, parents can go in through the front door," Syfan said.

Board member Maria Calkins had suggested the crosswalk, which she said works well at Centennial Arts Academy.

"It’s kind of like the Atlanta airport," she said. "You just know to stop because it’s raised up a little bit and makes it look different. It’s like an automatic stop."

Board member Kelvin Simmons asked Syfan if the board should give the Enota plan a chance to work before further exploring the crosswalk.

"I sort of see it as a combination of the two will resolve the problem," Syfan said.

Several parents spoke on the issue before hearing the presentation by Meadors and Keith Vincent, director of transportation and maintenance.

Heather Hayes, chairman of the school council, handed board members a packet of letters from parents.

She said the traffic problem began when parking was banned in the front of the school in November.

"Almost overnight ... we have a backup of traffic down to Corner Drugs (off Thompson Bridge Road) as well as the large hill on Park Hill," Hayes said.

"If we had a designated place to walk in the front ... or some sort of signs that you do not park in those bus lanes, I think it would probably address the parents’ concerns," she added.

Enota is just one of several schools in the city and county that have traffic issues.

One city school where traffic issues are about to be eased is Centennial Arts Academy.

Gainesville plans to spend $25,000 to expand Touchdown Drive, a short road that connects Pearl Nix Parkway to Century Place, from two to four lanes.

The project will ease traffic in the student pickup and drop-off lines at Centennial.

City Manager Bryan Shuler has said crews could finish the project by the end of spring break in April with the most disruptive work during that week, when school is not in session.



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