Strawberry Park parking lot is work in progress as changes get negative feedback (with video) | SteamboatToday.com

Strawberry Park parking lot is work in progress as changes get negative feedback (with video)

Video courtesy Wendy Harvey/Facebook

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — At the beginning of the school year, Strawberry Park Elementary School and Steamboat Springs Middle School implemented a parking lot redesign with the intent of making a safer student pickup and drop-off process.

They anticipated some resistance to change and time needed to work out the kinks.

Two months later, Middle School Principal Heidi Chapman-Hoy and Transportation Director Casey Ungs said they have received a lot of positive feedback, as well as constructive criticism.

But there is negative feedback as well — mostly around afternoon pickup. Strawberry Park parent Wendy Harvey made a video over the course of about five days to illustrate her concerns. 

The primary problem as illustrated in the video, and as Harvey described, is that cars are backing out of their parking spots, sometimes while children walk behind the cars. She also described it as a general “free for all.”

But Chapman-Hoy and Ungs said they do see a safer system than was there before. There were always parents parking in a section of the parking lot and backing up, Chapman-Hoy said.

They’ve always had the option to park and go pick up their kids, she said, though they are encouraged to drive around the perimeter and pick them up curbside. But parents walk their kids back to their cars, she said.

Before, there were kids and cars and school buses all in the mix, she also noted, whereas now, they are all separate. Chapman-Hoy sees this as a huge safety improvement.

The district is currently in the process of forming “a committee to review the parking lot changes since we have been using this new system the past couple of months,” said Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Brad Meeks. “I am recommending that we convene a committee comprised of parents, principals and Casey (Ungs, transportation director) to review the changes in the parking lot to include what is working and where there are still concerns, as well as how to solve these issues.”

The redesign is supposed to work something like an airport pickup, with two lanes of traffic around the perimeter of the parking lot. The outer lane used for stopping and picking up, and the inner lane used to keep cars in motion. Cars move along the perimeter, pick up their child at designated points and then exit.

Harvey said that isn’t how it is working. Instead, she said the two lanes get so backed up no one can even get in, so parents are just being told to find a parking spot.

Chapman-Hoy said a lot of people are using the two lanes, though there is a period of serious backup, lasting from about 3:25 to 3:32 p.m. But with school letting out at 3:20 p.m., Chapman-Hoy said the parking lot is largely cleared about by about 3:40 p.m.

Harvey maintains the old system was better, and safer.

“It’s frustrating because they threw the baby out with the bathwater on this one,” Harvey said. “They had a good system — they just needed to enforce the rules.”

Harvey worries the change was more in response to parents having to wait a long time, but Ungs and Chapman-Hoy maintain that safety is the highest priority.

Harvey said she is speaking out because she is concerned someone is going to get hurt and that things will only get worse with snowy weather.

Chapman-Hoy and Ungs said they are in the process of forming the committee as early as this week and are also making tweaks to continuously improve the system, as well as being proactive in their communication to parents.

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


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