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Getting kids to school may not be matter of in and out

Local school, city and law-enforcement officials have worked together to relieve traffic issues

Posted: August 9, 2014 10:13 p.m.
Updated: August 9, 2014 10:13 p.m.

This August 2012 file photo shows traffic heading for West Ranch High School on Valencia Blvd. on the first day of school in Stevenson Ranch.


It’s back-to-school time – time for parents and teen drivers to congregate at sometimes hard-to-get-to campuses, all at about the same time, creating mini-rush hours where summertime saw placidly flowing traffic.

“The hotspots are anywhere around schools,” California Highway Patrol Officer John Lutz advised.

And traffic violations go right along with the rush to get kids to school on time, said Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff Department Sgt. Richard Cohen. Common offenses among drivers during back-to-school time are double parking, speeding, lack of awareness of pedestrians, and driving dangerously around other cars.

“It’s just a big mess of traffic,” Pico Canyon Elementary School PTA President Marina Pelaez summed up the situation. “There’s people piled up and down the street trying to turn, kids are getting out where they shouldn’t, and there’s no manners whatsoever. How do you change it? How do you make it stop?”

Local school, Santa Clarita city and law-enforcement officials have put their heads together and launched several efforts to help relieve back-to-school traffic nightmares.

Many schools in the Santa Clarita Valley have adopted a “valet” program to help expedite the process of dropping off students.

“The Sheriff’s Department trains older students and adults to help younger students get out of their cars,” said Saugus Union School District Superintendent Joan Lucid. “It works.”

According to Santa Clarita Senior Traffic Engineer Ian Pari, the city’s traffic department has also established the “Safe Routes to School” program at several local elementary schools. Safe Routes to School is a state-funded project that encourages students to walk or bike to and from school while making the trip safer for them.

The goal is reached in two ways: improving infrastructure around schools – such as painting crosswalks more boldly, installing larger and fluorescent safety warning signs and installing fixtures to slow down traffic – and educating students on bike riding and safety.

At the same time, “Increasing individuals walking or biking helps to decrease traffic,” Pari said.

Many students in the high school and junior high levels use Santa Clarita Transit, the city’s bus system, to get to and from school. Santa Clarita Transit Manager Adrian Aguilar said the system has already launched its school schedule, modifying routes to meet school starting times, changes in traffic patterns and school boundaries. The busiest routes will have the maximum 60-foot buses, she said.

“Fortunately we have a good working relationship with the sheriff and school districts,” said Aguilar. “We work with them to handle any problem.”

Lutz said the Newhall CHP office offers a “Start Smart” program for newly licensed drivers and their parents. The program begins Aug. 19 and is free, he said.

“We teach proper procedures, statistics and any new laws in action,” he said. Those interested in the course can contact the CHP office at 661-294-5540.

The most frequent advice from Santa Clarita Valley officials for parents facing the back-to-school traffic crush: Start early, expect delays, and be patient.


ricketzz: Posted: August 10, 2014 10:29 a.m.

I would have been very embarrassed to have a 'rental unit chauffeur me around. Some people skate to school. That wasn't on the list. I'd ban non-staff, non-student automobiles unless they had special permission. Make 'em walk the last half mile or so.

I went to an inner city Magnet high school with 5,000 students and no parking for anybody. My dad called it forced busing.

lawoman: Posted: August 10, 2014 11:47 a.m.

For a couple of years I have continuously called the Sherriff's department because the "valet" line at Bridgeport Elementary off Newhall Ranch Road and Grandview Drive backs up in the afternoon onto Newhall Ranch Road. Parents are parking in the slow lane of the roadway when it is clearly marked "no parking", it is a lane people, not a valet line. I have contacted the school and they said that they can't do anything about it, only the Sherriff's can by issuing tickets. This is very dangerous due to the fact that at 3:00pm companies in the industrial center and Valencia High School students get out and I have seen near misses because they come to a lane that is at a complete stop because parents are parked waiting to pick up their kids. Something needs to be done about this before an accident or death occurs since these parents are oblivious to the "no parking" signs. I'd hate to see a big rig come at 50mph and take out 10 to 15 cars in one sweep, that wouldn't be very pretty.

projalice11: Posted: August 10, 2014 3:24 p.m.

"Getting kids to school may not be matter of in and out"

"The most frequent advice from Santa Clarita Valley officials for parents facing the back-to-school traffic crush: Start early, expect delays, and be patient."


castaicjack: Posted: August 10, 2014 4:41 p.m.

It's all ok if the above madness occurs on a daily basis but let some parents try it by taking their kids out of the Castaic school district and placing them into the nearby proposed Einstein charter school and, suddenly, it's all unsafe and how could we ever think about such a thing...

debatenohate: Posted: August 11, 2014 11:21 a.m.

My child starts at Rio Norte Jr. High this week, and we live near a paseo that I believe could get her there on her bike easily (especially with the new, safer bridge over McBean). I was surprised, then, when I was completely unable to find any information on riding bikes to the school on its website -- do we need to register bikes, where is the bike rack, where is the safest place to get off the paseo and onto the school property? I had to call the school to ask, but they didn't even know. One of the reasons I moved to Valencia was the paseo system. It would make sense if a majority of the older elementary kids, Jr. High kids, and high school kids rode bikes to school on the paseos, for those who have them nearby and aren't on the bus route. It would reduce traffic, reduce pollution, and -- hey! -- get our kids some much-needed exercise (and independence). I'd love to see the City and the schools work together to come up with maps of each school and the different paseos that lead to each one, in addition to school-specific info on location of bike racks and safe crossing points.

timothymyers02: Posted: August 11, 2014 12:31 p.m.

Our oldest son walked to Arroyo Seco Junior High which is ACTUALLY uphill both ways due to the hill between McBean and Seco Canyon on Decoro! Youngest two children had to be driven to Rio Norte but the easy trick was making a lazy circle to the west and then back east.

The worst set up currently is West Ranch and Rancho Pico, with only one way in and out on Valencia Boulevard, and no future remediation.

src: Posted: August 11, 2014 12:43 p.m.

With the amount of money the school district brings in, there should be no issue providing school buses. Living in a suburban area outside a big city I rode the big yellow bus until I was a JR in high school. Why they cant get buses here is beyond me. Tax rates are higher here too.

bobforte: Posted: August 11, 2014 3:25 p.m.

ALso, please don't block emergency exit gates from the school or park in red zones. I am talking to the parents at WestCreek Academy. You know who you are. Glad to know you don't think the kids safety is that important that you can block a gate where a fire truck or ambulance might need to get through.

castaicjack: Posted: August 11, 2014 9:35 p.m.

Note to parents from school administration: IT'S YOUR PROBLEM!

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