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Traffic snarls accompany students back to school

Posted: August 16, 2012 12:17 p.m.
Updated: August 16, 2012 12:17 p.m.

Cars line the drop-off zone as Rancho Pico Junior High students wait for the gates to open for the first day in Stevenson Ranch on Thursday.

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School started valleywide Thursday as some 23,000-plus students returned to classes in the Hart district alone. And with the stampede to school came the inevitable traffic jams.

Take Valencia Boulevard, for example — particularly near the sign on the westbound side of the road that points to West Ranch High School on the right, Rancho Pico Junior High School on the left.

Hundreds of cars lined the hill leading toward the two schools by 8 a.m. Thursday as parents dropped children at one or both schools.

“It’s amazing,” said Elena Neely, adding it took her about 20 minutes to get from The Old Road near her house to the top of Valencia near Rancho Pico Junior High.

“This is my first time taking my daughter here. (Hart district officials) left me a message and sent an email the night before that said to get here early,” Neely said.

And it was the same story for school-bound parents at the other end of the valley. At Whites Canyon Road and Stillmore Street near Canyon High and Sierra Vista Junior High, the scene was equally hectic.

Santa Clarita traffic officials offered some advice for harried child-delivering parents.

“Always take your time, because a lot of the time, everyone wants to leave at the last minute,” said Cesar Romo, city signal operation supervisor. “And traffic really builds up in the last 20 minutes before schools start.”

At some major intersections, traffic volume increases by 30-50 percent between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m., officials said.

For those used to it, like Yuleth Cambaliza, it’s amusing. A lead campus supervisor at West Ranch High, she deftly guides campus traffic at the school’s entrance during peak traffic times.

She steps around wayward SUVs and waves cars through West Ranch’s driveway — staff to her right, students to the left.

“For the first couple of weeks, it gets pretty crowded,” she said. Then, she added with a smile, “The parents get tired of waiting and drop their kids at the bottom of the hill.”

For others, commuting on the first day of school was no laughing matter.

“Tell them Queen said you got on the wrong bus, and don’t cry — it’s going to be OK,” said Queen Thomas, a city bus driver, as she consoled an obviously distraught freshman who missed her stop.

The crying teenager didn’t realize she missed her cue to get off at Valencia High School until she was just outside West Ranch.

The mistake meant a long walk down the hill and a connecting bus to yet another heading toward the distraught student’s new school.

“Traffic, every year this happens,” Thomas said. “In two weeks, it’ll be better.”




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