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Frontier school board talks transportation

Paul Hashem shows artwork by Pinehurst Elementary fourth-grader Brett Smith, the Superintendent’s Award winner.

FRONTIER — A paving plan discussed at the June 3 Frontier School District Board included debate over resulting safety and traffic congestion issues at Cloverbank Elementary School. Although the plan is generally accepted as being a positive initiative, the transparency of the process was questioned by at least one board member.

The board voted 4-2 to approve the plan, with Board President Janet Plarr abstaining, due to her stated indecision on the matter. District Architect Shawn Wright of Young + Wright Architectural, as well as Cloverbank Elementary Principal Michelle Siebert, explained various plan parameters.

They noted that the district’s ongoing capital improvement project allows for additional parking, as well as a separate parent drop-off only area at the front of Cloverbank. More than 30 parking spaces would be made available. Green space and a front sidewalk currently exist in front of the school, and seven trees could be removed as part of the process.

Board members Thomas Best Jr. and Martin Lalka voted against the resolution, which was proposed by Board Member Jack Chiappone, to adopt the current paving plan presented by Wright for the parking lot and drop-off area. Chiappone and board members Lynn Szalkowski, Patrick Boyle and Larry Albert voted in favor of the resolution. Best stated that although he is not against the plan’s possibilities, he is frustrated with the perceived lack of transparency by the district in communicating with stakeholders and other community members.

“It’s how you go about things,” Best said. “It’s not how we [are supposed] to do business. Doing nothing [to address community members] is not an option. The target audience is the stakeholders.”

Some district officials, including Chiappone and Albert, stated that previous meetings on related matters had produced very sparse community attendance. Albert said he hopes children’s safety is the top priority as part of the project, to which Best agreed.

“We’ve been told that we have a health and safety issue here [with the current setup],” said Albert.

The simultaneous arrival of buses, vehicles and walking children on site was stated as being a potential hazard. District officials noted the need to have signs and/or barriers preventing traffic in prohibited areas, in the future.

Related concerns regarding the project include parking too close to the building at Cloverbank; the safety of walkers crossing parts of the parking lot; the loss of green space, to which Wright replied that the existing Memorial Gardens would remain intact and buses possibly not all fitting in the designated drop-off area.

It was stated, however, that the separate entrance for parents to drop off their children, which would require them to make a U-turn, would be sufficiently far away from the bus area. Current configuration allows for more than 110 parking spaces, with about 80 spots for staff and 35 for designated visitors. Staff arrival time at Cloverbank is slated for 8:15 a.m., with bus arrival at 8:40 a.m.

Chiappone said that previous conversations with stakeholders had yielded feedback that more site parking was desired. Siebert noted that more than a handful of buses cannot all fit in a single parking row currently, adding that several near-misses in terms of safety hazards had occurred in the past. However, she said, with the addition of a separate drop-off area in a secured area, those perils can be lessened or eliminated.

“I thought this was a fair compromise,” the principal said, of the layout plan.

Chiappone added, “You’re not going to please everybody.”

Szalkowski said she is in favor of the plan and that the time is now to move forward on it, while still having the option after of explaining project parameters to interested community members. Plarr reiterated the need to have visible signs indicating areas of non-travel.

Wright estimated the paving contract for the front parking scheme to be $60,000. Original parking lot project bids had been advertised beginning in April.

In other board matters, the board approved various reductions, including abolishing 9.9 teaching positions from areas of health, foreign language, math, school library media, physical education, science, social studies, school social work and remedial speech.

Plarr noted that, although these cuts are mandated per budgetary constraints, it is possible after July 1 that district officials could look into possibly bringing back some of the positions if the situation is conducive for such moves.

The next meeting of the Frontier Central School Board will take place at 7 p.m. on June 17 at the Frontier Educational Center, located at 5120 Orchard Ave.
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