Some order is taking shape in the chaos along Yosemite Avenue on school days shortly after 2:30 p.m. when Manteca High classes end for the day.
Crossing guards are now in place to provide a measure of safety for students crossing the heavily traveled east-west street.
Manteca Unified Deputy Superintendent Clark Burke said the decision to rollout crossing guards is a byproduct of ongoing efforts to provide safe routes to and from school for students.
At the start of the current school year a Shasta School first grader was struck and killed in an intersection as she walked to school. Then several months later a Manteca High cross country runner was seriously injured when he was struck crossing Moffat Boulevard during a team practice session.
Motorists have long complained about students walking out without looking onto busy Yosemite as well as Center Street a block to the north as they exited the campus following the final bell.
The presence of the school crossing guard has improved the flow on Yosemite Avenue somewhat as well as enhancing safety.
Before some drivers would keep inching forward trying to squeeze in a break between students heading north across Yosemite Avenue at Garfield and Sherman avenues. Now traffic comes to a more sustained stop for longer periods as the crossing guard takes control of the crosswalk. At the same time, it appears to have reduced the time it takes for students to cross the street which in turn shortens the back-up.
On Monday, traffic heading westbound was held up at the nearby Fremont Avenue signal for three light changes before it started moving. Prior to the crossing guards one car would make it across at a time. But in terms of overall time that traffic is backed up it is for a slightly shorter overall period.
The traffic congestion on Yosemite Avenue should improve somewhat by this time next year when the modernization of Lincoln School — less than three blocks east of Manteca High — is completed.
The front of the school will be orientated toward Powers Avenue where a multipurpose room and new office are being built. That will greatly reduce if not eliminate student drop offs and pickups along Yosemite Avenue as students will not be able to exit or enter the campus from that street. It would also funnel more students on foot to the crosswalk at the traffic signals at Powers and Yosemite avenues.
Burke expects additional changes to student walking patterns and even drop-offs to come as a district-level committee involving all schools continues to work on enhancing safety.
Manteca Unified has a three-pronged strategy to enhance the safety of the district’s 23,000 students traveling to and from school.
Educating students about existing safe routes to school and being smart when walking.
Identifying problems and concerns with traffic on streets around schools.
Making sure modernization projects correct traffic flow and safety issues at various campuses.
After meeting with various stakeholders including the city, the district generated Google maps of neighborhoods around every school and distributed them to each campus. Each school was tasked to work with their staff and parents to identify areas that are of a concern.
They ranged from visual issues at intersections that a numerous of students cross, traffic conditions, or other issues. The concerns have been identified on the aerial maps for use to discuss the next steps.
Burke has noted in many instances the city and not the school district would have final say on any suggested improvements.
At previous public meeting parents have called for higher visibility crosswalks, more police enforcement, stop signs and some locales.
The first wave of $56.4 million in Measure G projects is also addressing safety issues concerning arriving and departing campuses at Lathrop, Sequoia, and Shasta elementary schools in addition to Lincoln School.
Sequoia School will no longer face Martha Street as it has for more than a half a century after the campus’ $8.4 million modernization project is completed. Instead, a new office will be built next to the multi-purpose room on Wawona Street.
The entire campus will be re-orientated and reconfigured to improve security as well so the campus can be effectively locked down in emergencies.
Kindergarten drop-off, however, will remain on Martha Street.
Neighbors and parents alike have complained for years about the hodge podge situation at Lathrop School regarding before and after school traffic.
The bond project will clean up the traffic issues, add sidewalks, provide a bus drop off and create one main entrance to the campus.
Shasta School’s parking lot will be expanded and driveway visibility issues addressed.