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Burnside sees a safer start to school year

Trina Petterson, computer specialist for Red Wing elementary schools, helps a student and parent navigate the new drop-off system at Burnside School during the first week of the school year. Barriers now separate bus and car traffic. (Photo by Samantha Bengs)

The parking lot at Burnside Elementary School received a new look over the summer break. As students and parents arrived during the first week of the school year, a separate parking system for buses and student drop-offs/pick-ups was in place.

“We’ve had a number of different arrangements over the years in the parking lot,” Burnside Principal Sheila Beckner said.

“But we still felt it wasn’t as safe as we wanted it to be, because we had a lot of cars backing out.”

The previous parking arrangement had buses and parents entering the same way, then parents parking diagonally, then backing up out of parking spots while other people’s children were crossing.

“With both buses and cars were both coming in, it was too much going on at once,” Beckner said. “Unfortunately, at a school, everything happens at two peak times.”

Over the summer, Beckner and district leadership brainstormed with city officials and First Student bus copmany management.

“Our two keys were to separate buses and cars, and to not have cars backing out where kids are crossing,” Beckner said.

The new parking layout does just that, with concrete barriers creating a clear separation between bus and parent traffic.

“We came up with a separate entrance for parents, trying to create one flow for the cars,” Beckner said.

With help from city crews removing and changing some concrete, a wide walkway was painted on the existing pavement, creating a safe lane for students to walk toward the school entrance. Concrete barriers separate the walkway from bus traffic.

“We wanted to keep things visually open,” Beckner said. “Parents can pull up next to the walkway, watch their child walk toward the school, and continue through the loop.”

The separate parent entrance is helping to keep the buses on schedule, Beckner said, without having the traffic backup.

“This change is all about safety of our kids. Safety is our number one goal, then we can teach,” Beckner said.

There was very little impact from the change, with the school giving up a small amount playground space to create staff parking spots.

“If this arrangement works, next summer we would remove the barriers and rebuild the sidewalks,” Beckner said.

Beckner said the school received positive reactions from parents during the first week of the school year.

“Once we master the learning curve, I think this will be the change we needed to increase the safety of our kids,” she said.