We are well into the school year at this point of October. As you read this, we will just be returning from the Education Minnesota break. I thought it would be an appropriate time to provide an update on a few traffic and law enforcement issues.
SCHOOL BUS LOADING ZONES
After the construction on County Road 50, we have returned to our normal patterns of traffic and movement of vehicles through the school campus. Travel issues have improved significantly, but I still want to take time to review our processes.
Prior to the start of the school day, the parking lot between Cold Spring Elementary and the Secondary site is our bus drop zone. We bring the vast majority of our students into this area to drop them off for school. Of course the south parking lot at the high school is our student parking area.
Although the parking lots are not “through streets” at any time, after 7:45 in the morning, we need vehicles to stay out of the drop area in order to provide a safe zone for all of our students.
Beginning about 2:45 in the afternoon, the area also becomes our bus loading zone. All of the buses used for our regular routes arrive in the parking lot. Students begin loading buses just before 3:00. The buses depart from the area about 3:10.
We ask our School Resource Officer, along with the Cold Spring Police Department, to patrol this area in order to redirect traffic on the campus. We do not want to ticket or penalize people, but if the vehicle traffic continues in the area, we really have no choice—we must keep the area safe for students.
During the school day, from 8:20 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., we use our gates to control traffic on the campus. Traffic is stopped from crossing through when the gates are closed. We use some of the parking lot between the school sites as play area for students. In order to ensure safety for our students as they play in the asphalt area, the gates are used to keep all traffic from moving through the campus.
VEHICLE ENTRANCE TO SCHOOL
During the construction of County Road 50, we added an entrance to the south parking lot. The entrance is designed somewhat on the concept of an “off ramp” from major highways. The lane curves into the southern end of the parking lot and is intended to have one-way (entrance to campus) traffic only.
The idea behind the “ramp” is to encourage our parents and students to enter into the parking lot through the new entrance. Traffic can follow Country Road 50 and then simply “exit” the road by the new entrance. This reduces the number of vehicles a little further up the road near the buildings. It allows vehicles exiting the parking lot a little better opportunity to see the traffic, reduces the number of vehicles in the area, and hopefully, has reduced the pressure at that intersection. As such, vehicles at the intersection can move a little more quickly.
We know, ideally, we would have more entrances and exits to the parking area. This, however, is difficult to accomplish because the parking lot is not a “large” space and there are two county roads forming the boundaries of the lot.
Over the past few years, we have had various conversations with Stearns County about the parking lot and traffic situations. Because of the nature of the parking lot and the fact that our traffic issues are really limited to the start and end of school, we are not able to secure permission to have additional “access” onto the county roads.
A south exit from the parking lot onto County Road 2 is too close to the Y intersection. It would simply put more vehicles immediately into the intersection traffic. With traffic potentially traveling at 40 mph after the Y intersection, it would be more challenging for any vehicles wanting to depart to the north and east. Traffic heading into the downtown area (south and west) would almost immediately hit the backed up traffic to the stop sign. Stearns County will not allow us to add an exit that would increase traffic difficulties. Another exit onto County Road 2 is not ever likely to happen.
An additional exit on County 50 was not acceptable to the county either. The expectation, again given the nature of the parking lot itself, was that an additional exit onto County 50 would simply create more confusion and increase the potential for accidents. Traffic would become more complicated rather than improved.
The “ramp” approach was the best we could do to try to assist with traffic issues. The County did agree with us that having vehicles pull off the County road and into the parking lot would reduce pressure on the exit area. This allows, at least at the start of the day, vehicles to get back onto County Road 50 in a more efficient and effective way.
We understand that this change does not change the end of the day issues with student vehicles trying to exit the parking lot. However, the challenges of the size and nature of the parking lot coupled with the existing traffic issues on the two county roads are realistic concerns. Additional exits would complicate issues for drivers on those roads.
SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICER
Although our School Resource Officer (SRO) works with many more issues than school traffic, I thought this would be a great opportunity to share a little bit about out SRO. The school district and the city of Cold Spring have a long-standing relationship in which a police officer is, during the school year, “assigned” to the school district.
Ruben Zayas has served as our School Resource Officer for the last several years. Ruben is a very personable officer who has been able to establish good connections and relationships with students.
Primarily, the SRO is assigned to and stationed at the secondary site. In many ways, this makes sense because we have grades six through twelve on the site and about two-thirds of our overall student population. It also makes sense because most student “legal” issues are likely to happen among students as they get older.
The School Resource Officer, however, also is expected to work with our elementary school sites, to conduct programs and events with elementary students, and to respond to issues across the district.
During the school year, the School Resource Officer follows the school calendar for assignment or duty days. Having the SRO available when students are at school is one of our highest priorities for the position. The SRO is also expected to be at a number of school events in the evening—all varsity home football games, activities where we anticipate a large crowd or very strong traditional rivalries, and significant events like Prom and Homecoming.
The position is always a city police officer position. Ultimately, the SRO is responsible to the Chief of Police and the Cold Spring city offices. We reimburse, through “safe school” funding, the city for the school year portion of the officer contract.
The School Resource Officer position is one that we are very proud to support and one that, over the course of time, has proven to be incredibly valuable for the ROCORI School District and the city of Cold Spring. It has been a great collaboration—benefiting both organizations!