By Madeline Novey Reporter-Herald Staff Writer
LOVELAND — Anticipating a long wait, Jayme Santos took a book to read when she picked up her two children from Loveland Classical Schools on Tuesday afternoon.
And she was glad she had it. On the first day of classes, it took more than an hour for parents to collect their kids.
“An officer out there said it was a nightmare after school (Tuesday),” said Sgt. Bob Shaffer of the Loveland Police Department’s traffic unit.
Cars lined Southwest 14th Street waiting to enter the parking lot of the school at 3835 SW 14th St. Once in, drivers were met by another long line of vehicles wrapped around the building, ready to come out on the east side to grab their children and hit the road.
But now, after a couple of days’ practice, the wait time is shorter and the pickup process more efficient.
“I definitely think we’ve made some improvements,” school co-founder Trisha Coberly said Thursday afternoon.
After school each day this week, members of the school’s traffic team met and made changes.
Loveland Classical Schools makes sure every child goes home in the right vehicle with the right driver.
Parents are given security numbers to display on their dashboards. As they make it to the end of the queue and approach the loading zone, members of a traffic team radio the number and corresponding last name of the child or children associated with the number to a person standing with students waiting for their ride.
The first day, not all students, especially the younger ones, had their numbers memorized. So identification by number and last name was a must.
Earlier in the week, too, there were two load lanes. Though this helped to get more kids into cars, some parents got stuck waiting to exit the parking lot even though their youngsters already were onboard.
Now, there’s one load lane and one lane in which to pull through.
Today, parents will see an additional loading zone that Coberly hopes will speed things up even more.
It took Nikole Erickson about 30 minutes to work her way through the line Tuesday. Changes implemented Thursday cut that time to about 10 minutes, she said.
As she circled the school in her red Toyota van, she said, “Today, it’s much smoother. Traffic is flowing; it’s a big improvement.”
Overall, she doesn’t mind the wait. It means her son, a second-grader named Evan, is safe.
“It’s very important to me,” she said, just yards from the pickup zone. “It makes me feel good that it’s important to them (the school).”
Earlier this week, the Reporter-Herald and Loveland Police Department got a few calls from people concerned about the congestion, especially the number of vehicles lining Southwest 14th Street to the east of the school.
Before the first bell signaling release of elementary school children at 2:45 p.m., about 35 or 40 vehicles waited in the bicycle lane on Southwest 14th to turn into the school. That number would ebb and flow until about 3:15 p.m., when the last car entered the lot.
When asked if he thought the overflow and congestion along Southwest 14th Street was dangerous, Shaffer said, “I’d say no.”
“I don’t think it causes any hazards. It’s just slow,” he said.
A public school, Loveland Classical Schools didn’t contact the Thompson School District for help mitigating the traffic issues. But district spokesman Wes Fothergill said administrators were aware.
“I think it’s irritating (to drivers along Southwest 14th Street and parents alike), but people need to realize that it’s just the first couple of days of school,” he said. “Give the staff a little bit of a break, as they work things out.”