SHIRLEY -- Ayer-Shirley School District Superintendent Carl Mock, citing the safety of school children attending the Lura A. White Elementary School, proposes reversing the one-way restriction on School Street.
Monday night, acting Police Chief Alfreda Cromwell asked the selectmen to hold a public hearing to consider the proposal, which seeks to change the current one-way traffic flow, from Harvard Road to Lancaster Road to the opposite direction, with one-way entry from Lancaster Road and exit via Harvard Road.
Mock polled the neighbors and they are in accord with the idea, Cromwell told the board. And she recommends it.
As it is now, buses travel west on School Street and pull into the U-shaped drive to let students out, she said. The kids then walk in front of the buses to access the sidewalk and enter the building. School administrators say they are concerned about safety, citing bus drivers' limited view and the risk of kids falling on slippery walks this winter, she said.
In addition, "inconsistent times" the one-way restriction is in effect, with specific hours posted on the signs, is "confusing" to some motorists, who don't get it and drive in the wrong direction at the wrong time, she said.
As part of the changed traffic pattern, the one-way flag would be up consistently throughout the school day, 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, year-round.
Chairman Andy Deveau, tracing the history of School Street from a two-way street to a sometimes one-way street, said his concern would be that the situation that prompted the change in 2006 - that of school buses backed up on busy Lancaster Road - would occur again once its reversed. Still, children's safety takes precedent, he said.
"I agree with you and the school supervisors" about the safety issues, he said to Cromwell. But would the problematic scenario be re-created?
"I think we can overcome that," she answered. For one thing, there were eight buses coming and going then, versus only five buses now.
Another issue that came up during the discussion was parents dropping off their kids at school at the same time the buses do and whether that poses a safety hazard.
The assumption was that that only the buses would use that side of the street," Selectman David Swain said. "I thought that was understood."
Cromwell said it may be the intent, even the rule, but she's seen drivers do otherwise and she agreed it's risky. Ultimately, the school needs to set a drop-off policy and get the word out to parents, she said.
The selectmen agreed to hold a public hearing and asked Chief Administrative Officer Dave Berry to set it up.