Parking lot redesign to improve safety, traffic flow at elementary, middle school campus |

Parking lot redesign to improve safety, traffic flow at elementary, middle school campus

A map of the newly redesigned parking flow at Strawberry Park Elementary School and Steamboat Springs Middle School.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For several years, Steamboat Springs Middle School and Strawberry Park Elementary School parents and staff have been working to improve the pick-up and drop-off traffic flow on their shared campus.

When the 2019-20 school year starts next week, they will put their recently completed parking lot redesign into action.

The changes are first and foremost a result of parent feedback, said Transportation Director Casey Ungs, in collaboration with school staff and a committee of parents formed to help with the new design.

School leaders have long been listening to concerns that the parking lot can often get chaotic, said Middle School Principal Heidi Chapman-Hoy.

“We’re all in it together,” added Middle School Office Manager Val Dietrich. “We are working hard to address the issues, and now, have a good solution.”

They even enlisted a math class to take measurements regarding how many cars and buses can fit in the parking lot and where.

As the schools have grown — now enrolling a total of more than 1,100 students —the parking lot has not increased in size since the schools opened their doors in 1981.

Last year, there were 631 middle school students and 497 elementary students at Strawberry Park. In 2008-09, there were 482 middle school students and 456 Strawberry Park students.  

With the recent redesign, 44 parking spots were added in a sliver at the top of the lot. This area had previously been used as a pick-up lane.

Dietrich said one of the biggest concerns voiced by parents was the nine lanes of cars in the upper lot through which students would have to cross in search of their rides. And not only did all those lanes of cars compete to enter and exit, they were also vying with school buses to get out of the lot. 

Safety is the focus of the redesign, Dietrich said.

Now, cars will not be allowed in the upper lot, which is reserved for school district vehicles only from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. And buses will not be in competition with cars to exit — traffic will now be stopped at just one spot to allow all the buses to leave at once.  

Things to know
  • The upper parking lot has been changed from parent drop off and pick up to staff parking and school bus a.m. drop off and p.m. staging. No non-school district vehicles are allowed in this area between the hours of 7 a.m. and 4 p.m.
    Parents and visitors will now enter campus via two right-hand lanes merging before the crosswalk to the lower lot.
    School buses will enter campus via the left-hand lane proceeding into the upper parking lot for picking up and dropping off students along the center sidewalk.
    Student drop off and pick up will now occur along the perimeter of the lower lot starting from curbside at Strawberry Park Elementary School after passing through the entrance crosswalk and terminating before entering the crosswalk in front of the middle school.
    The first four rows of parking to the west of the sidewalk/rock area/median are designated parking for parents for pick up, drop off as well as visitor parking.
    Overflow parking if the designated parent parking area is full will be the remaining five rows of parking west of the designated parent parking area.
    Parking maps will be available at the front desk of both the elementary and middle school offices and on the transportation page on the school district website.
    The “Flag pole” pick-up location will change to designated areas for both the elementary and middle schools.
    — Source: Steamboat Springs School District

Advice from Ungs, Chapman-Hoy and Dietrich for parents and other drivers as they navigate the parking lot?

Stay to the right when you enter. There may be delays while everyone gets used to it, but it is much safer. A lot of time and thought went into the new plan, which ideally will actually make things faster, Dietrich said.

And the fall is a good time to try it out and retrain brains, said Chapman-Hoy, as it is when the most students are participating in after-school sports.

They also suggest that students ride the bus to school. With about 30% ridership, there’s plenty of room to grow. There are also a number of older students who walk and bike, year-round, she said, which is always encouraged.

Carpools, for staff and students, are another great way to reduce traffic and be environmentally sound, Dietrich said.

And be patient. There will still be traffic and back-ups on Amethyst Drive. Until they are able to alleviate the overcrowding by reducing the student population, Chapman-Hoy noted, there will be traffic. But she is hopeful parents will embrace the new system.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.

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