‘Glacier’ returns to West Elementary
Chipping ice is regular winter chore along curb outside school entrance

       Terry Martinez calls it “our glacier.”

West Elementary Principal Terry Martinez swings a pick at the "glacier" in the handicapped ramp near the school entrance Jan. 4. Helping are Norm Relaford and Robert Quintana of building maintenance. The ice is fed by (rear, upper left) the drainage line from the building, going under the sidewalk to the street gutter.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The West Elementary principal has become quite familiar with the frozen flow that forms in front of his building on 20th Street after winter storms (such as the one before Christmas).
       It's an inherited problem, he explained, dating back to the West Intergenerational Center, which had occupied the northwest part of the West Middle School building before the elementary was created three years ago. To keep water on the roof from seeping under the building, a pipe carries the drainage out to the gutter by the curb along the east side of 20th, a short distance up from the elementary-school entrance.
       The problem is, as Martinez pointed out, the gutter has a low point, basically right in front of the entrance, where a student crosswalk lines up with the south side of Kiowa Street. A handicapped ramp is also there. And, with the neighborhood's houses and trees, the site gets very little sunlight this time of year.
       Result? The water flows to the low spot, accumulates several inches deep along the curb and up the ramp and then - if it's a typical winter night or particularly cold day - freezes.
       On the morning of Jan. 4, the day before students returned for the second semester, Martinez could be seen in front of his school, swinging a pick at the ice in the handicapped ramp. The ice along the curb was still thick and untouched. He said he had put out a call for assistance. Soon after, Norm Relaford and Robert Quintana from building maintenance joined in the clearing effort, also using hand tools.
       That afternoon, big-time help arrived at last: The city sent over a road grader.
       Martinez was appreciative, but he knows the problem will be back. Ice-breaking has even become a regular community service project for which students can receive credit during the school year. He doesn't let them use a pick, but does give them a shovel and small rock bar, he said.
       Still, he's concerned about the potential for pedestrian injury, with so much ice in such a prominent location by the school entrance. “How many kids, parents and teachers go through there every day?” he mused.
       Martinez also knows that a long-term upgrade won't be easy. The cheapest strategy would be to move the crosswalk about 20 feet to the north, lining it up with the north side of Kiowa. But the principal fears that could prove a bureaucratic nightmare, considering it took a year to get city approval to authorize a crossing guard for the current crosswalk back in 2010.
       More costly options would be to move the storm drain or change the streeet layout.

West Elementary kindergarteners watch a city bulldozer work on the "glacier" as they stand outside the school entrance in January 2010. A similar scene unfolded Jan. 4, before students returned from break.
Courtesy of Terry Martinez

       In the meantime, on these wintry days, Martinez watches the weather forecasts… and keeps his pick handy.

Westside Pioneer article