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Quaker Valley officials say finding an answer to traffic questions will take time

Working with Leetsdale officials

While students continue to be dropped off in the mornings, police presence and approved routes for unloading passengers are working, Principal Andrew Surloff said.

Cones block off the area where drivers used to unload students, effectively keeping the busy stretch of Beaver Street flowing for morning commuters and Port Authority buses.

“Putting the cones out has prevented people from being able to stop,” Surloff said.

“Although, I think it's the flashing lights (from police vehicles) more than it is the cones. If the flashing lights weren't there, people would still stop in the middle of Beaver Street.”

Drivers are instructed to use Winding Road and Valley Lane to drop off children, along with using the lower level parking lot off of Route 65 near Chuck Knox Stadium. Drivers also can use the Leetsdale VFW.

Publicity surrounding the traffic issue hasn't caused ridership on buses to increase, Superintendent Joseph Clapper said.

Following a discussion with Leetsdale Mayor Pete Poninsky, an option for adding a crossing guard is being considered, Clapper said.

“We don't hire crossing guards,” Clapper said. “Boroughs hire crossing guards. But we contribute to the cost of a crossing guard. I let (the mayor) know very clearly that if that is something the borough had an interest in doing from a safety perspective, that we would be willing to pony up and help out with that.”

Leetsdale council members could discuss a crossing guard at their workshop and regular meetings planned Tuesday and next Thursday, respectively.

High school is a ‘different ball game than years ago'

Roughly 80 percent of high school students are involved in sports or after-school activities, taking busing options off the table for some kids, Surloff said.

“It's real simple to say, “Everyone should just ride the bus,'” Clapper said. “It's a little more complicated than that. High school kids today run a different schedule than they did years ago. They're bringing with them cellos and lacrosse sticks and carrying stuff up onto the school bus.”

“So the end of their day isn't necessarily doesn't coincide with the buses going home,” Surloff said.

High school is a “different ball game than years ago,” Clapper said.

“There's a whole host of reasons why kids are being dropped off at school or drive to school. I can't probably list them all.”

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Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 9:29 p.m.
 

A permanent solution to improving traffic safety in front of Quaker Valley High School will take time, district Superintendent Joseph Clapper said.

That solution could involve several options that Clapper and other district officials will learn this month when David E. Wooster and Associates present findings from a traffic study.

While a temporary fix is needed, officials say, a permanent solution will require more planning — and could be part of a comprehensive plan to update the high school in the next six years to eight years, Clapper said in an interview Monday with the Sewickley Herald.

“You don't want to do something and then undo it,” Clapper said. “That's why it's not going to be quick and dirty. If you do quick and dirty, you'll have a mess. We really need to do our best thinking about this site.

“We have to think about facility needs and program needs in the high school. This is a real comprehensive view of a 21st century high school. That discussion and that analysis have to take place.”

So while district administrators expect to learn on Oct. 16 what options could be part of a future high school traffic proposal, no official action will be taken soon, Clapper said.

“We don't want to rush into anything right now until we're sure we're doing the right thing,” he said.

Focus on the Leetsdale campus and its traffic issues began more than a decade ago, Clapper said.

During morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up, drivers were allowing high school-aged passengers to exit vehicles in the middle of Beaver Street, backing up traffic in both directions as students crossed in front of vehicles to enter the high school.

Stopping in front of the school is not permitted, borough officials have said.

But it was the purchase of two homes earlier this year that sparked worry among some nearby residents.

In March, Quaker Valley board members purchased a home at 704 Beaver St. for $250,000. Two months later, board members approved spending $150,000 for 706 Beaver St.

School officials and property owners at 700 Beaver St. — which sits adjacent to the high school — have not been able to reach an agreement.

It is the last — and most crucial — property remaining between the district's high school and the two acquired properties.

Virginia Schneider, property owner at 700 Beaver St., and her daughter, Amy Arnold, previously have said school officials have not offered what they say their four parcels of land are worth.

Neither side publicly will say what — if any — amount district officials have offered.

“We keep reiterating we're not going to purchase anymore than three properties,” Clapper said. “If we do this, we're not taking the whole block.”

While district administrators and board members in the spring presented conceptual drawings showing a bus driveway, parking lot and drop-off area on the site where the three homes now sit, Clapper this week said the district wants to explore all options before moving forward.

“I don't want to get the cart before the horse,” he said. “Let's wait and see what the traffic study says and then we will put folks together and have dialogue and have more analysis. I can't emphasis enough that this is not immediate.”

An advisory committee and discussions among district personnel and community members will be part of a solution, Clapper said.

“We're doing our best to be good listeners, but we want to arrive at what we believe is the right solution,” he said. “You'll never arrive at that unless you have a lot of good thinkers around the table who want to contribute positively to finding a solution.”

He stressed district officials do not intent to relocate administration offices or other departments to the high school campus.

“We're here,” Clapper said of the administration space at Leetsdale Industrial Park. “We have a 10-year lease. We like it here. It's a great location.

“This has been an affordable solution for us.”

Clapper called reactions by some residents “unfortunate.”

“No one intentionally wants to create conflict,” he said.

“I understand what they're concern is relative to property. Balancing that with the safety concerns we have is very important. So that's the conundrum. That's where we need to really listen to each other … (and have) lots of dialogue.”

Leetsdale resident and president of a grassroots group — Concerned Taxpayers of Quaker Valley — Beth Carroll said she wants to find a solution that keeps the high school within its current property limits.

“We would like to see the houses back on the market and the neighborhood restored,” she said. “We're supportive of improving the safety.

“Let us help solve these issues.”

District administrators and some residents might not agree on proposed solutions, but all do agree that student safety is paramount.

“The fact that we've found some form of agreement, I think, is progress,” district spokeswoman Tina Vojtko said.

“We have to keep having dialogue like that,” Clapper said. “We don't want anything happening to any Quaker Valley student.”

Bobby Cherry is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or rcherry@tribweb.com.

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