Parents foresee traffic, safety problems if 2 Raleigh schools are on same schedule

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (WNCN) — Parents at two neighboring elementary schools in Wake County say putting the schools on the same bell schedule will create a traffic nightmare and safety problems.

North Forest Pines Drive Elementary and Forest Pines Drive Elementary are on the same campus in Raleigh.

North Forest Pines is on a year-round schedule and has classes from 7:45 a.m. until 2:15 p.m., while Forest Pines is a traditional calendar school with classes from 9:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.

The Wake County Public School System is considering a proposal to shift the North Forest Pines bell schedule to match that of its neighbor.

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The change will allow the district to use the same buses for both schools, said Lisa Luten, Wake County Public School System spokeswoman.

The consolidation will require six fewer buses, which Luten said can serve the North Wake College and Career Academy that will open in the fall of 2017.

Wake County schools hired an engineering firm to investigate traffic concerns.

Luten said the study found the roads around the campus can handle all of the vehicles, but there will need to be “double stack” lanes with cars by side.

Already, a long line of cars fills the main road outside the schools starting about 20 minutes before each of their respective dismissal times.

Forest Pines PTA board member Karen Mallo said she’s seen cars backed up as far as a half-mile away from the campus.

“The traffic around here is a little nutty at pick up time. I got here 15 or 20 minutes before school lets out,” Mallo said.

“Some of the concerns are that they’re going to put double lanes on each of the elementary schools in the front. That’s a little bit of a chaos,” she added.

Parents said there will only be more chaos if all of the parents from both schools are there at once.

“It can be awful at times. In the morning, it’s almost impossible to turn left out of our school, so if you double the carpools it will be even worse,” North Forest Pines parent Melanie Newman said.

“The other concern of mine is they want to double up the cars and carpool lines, so kids will have to cross and go in front of cars to be able to get to their car. That’s a huge safety issue for me,” she added.

Several North Forest Pines parents said they picked that school because of its early start times.

Lisa Poplawski said it is convenient for many working parents to drop off their kids for a 7:45 a.m. start time and then get to their 8 a.m. shifts.

She said the North Forest Pines PTA fought a similar proposal two years ago and hopes to succeed again in stopping it this time.

“We are looking at an hour and a half difference in the current bell and the late bell schedule. So many of us would have to do before-school care, which requires a lot of outlay of cash which is not good for all of us,” Poplawski said.

Parent Kelly Birdsall said the earlier schedule is also very accommodating for after-school activities.

“A lot of people chose this particular school because did it start early and therefore lets out early. Now they’re trying to push it back and I think it will be an impact to parents who have to consider after-school care,” Birdsall said.

Her third-grade daughter Abbey said she would not want a later start time.

“I have after school programs to do, and I don’t want to be late and be like, I have to finish my homework,” Abbey Birdsall said.

Forest Pines PTA vice president Ann Walter said the change would not only slow down the time for parents to pick up children from school, but also school buses.

Walter said she thinks it will take longer to load buses, and that’s if the buses are even able to get past parents who arrived early.

“The concern with the double stacking of cars is if it goes into our building to double stack, there would be no way for an emergency vehicle to get through, which would concern me, and the school buses come into our school (Forest Pines) for both schools, and they would not be able to get through if there were two car lanes,” Walter said.

Fellow PTA board member Mallo said her daughter used to take the bus but the route is already long. She anticipates it possibly taking longer with North Forest Pines students on the same bus as well.

“If she was to take the bus, she wouldn’t get home until approximately 4:45 when school lets out at 3:45, so she’s on the bus for over an hour,” Mallo said.

“That’s really unacceptable because she misses out on the beginnings of a lot of her activities. That’s why I’m sitting here in the car pickup line, because otherwise she would miss her activities,” Mallo added.

Poplawski said she understands the budgetary reasons for school leaders to consider the change, but she hopes there will be some compromise if the board approves rescheduling North Forest Pines students.

“We’re moving us an hour and a half whereas the other school would not have change at all. Can’t we meet in the middle if it has to happen? 45 minutes for them, 45 minutes for us,” Poplawski said.

Both schools’ parent-teacher associations called on members to email their school board representative over the past couple of days.

The Forest Pines PTA met Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. and the proposed change was on their agenda.

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