Schools move forward with bus parking plan

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Hopkinton Public Schools officials are one step closer to alleviating the current traffic and parking issues at the high school/middle school campus after presenting their recommendations during the March 21 School Committee meeting.

For the past two years, the district has been working on developing a “campus master plan” to evaluate the current flow of traffic — both buses and cars — and make a recommendation for a more efficient traffic pattern. Currently there is no separation of bus and vehicle traffic at the high and middle schools, causing not only concerns with traffic but also with safety.

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“The kids are constantly walking in the flow of traffic,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Carol Cavanaugh said. “It makes me very nervous when I am out there.”

With 29 buses that drop off and pick up close to 1,500 students daily, 100 student drivers and close to 40 parent cars, the drop-off and pickup line has become a major issue. Another issue that the campus master plan set to address was the parking lot availability, especially for student parking.  There currently are 40 students at the high school on the waiting list for a student parking spot.

Presenting the findings from the study, Director of Finance Susan Rothermich said numerous possibilities were considered before it was determined that the best scenario was to move the bus drop-off/pickup and parking lot to Field 9, a minimally used practice field located directly behind the high school.

“It pushes it out of the emergency access road, it gives the buses the ability to come in from Hopkins Drive, and will be a walkway that still allows the students to get down to the lower lot safely,” Rothermich said.

Rothermich said that another advantage of having the bus parking lot on Field 9 is additional safety measures for the student drivers.

“The crossing guard would be on Hopkins Drive and will be stopping traffic to let the buses go, so all of our young student drivers would have that crossing guard to stop traffic for them as well,” she explained.

Along with the improved traffic flow and increased parking with the new plan, there is a financial benefit as well. Parking the buses on campus overnight instead of parking them in Ashland will allow the town to collect the excise taxes on the buses, approximately $50,000 annually. The district also negotiated a $50,000 decrease in bus contract expenses for housing them in Hopkinton.

School Committee member Amanda Fargiano expressed concern about taking the space for bus parking instead of adding more parking spaces.

“It takes a very prime location and puts buses there,” she commented. “This solution is still going to leave nowhere to park on parent back to school night or when my kid is playing on the turf field.”

Rothermich responded that although Phase 1 is to build the bus parking lot on Field 9, there is a Phase 2 on the horizon where more parking could be added.

“As we continue to march down this path, you could be adding up to 92 additional spaces,” she said.

Because the project already was approved at Town Meeting in May 2018 for $300,000, the district will move forward with the project, with hopes to be completed by the beginning of the 2019-20 school year.