Traffic, time fixes at West Elementary

       Principal Terry Martinez was pleased with the inaugural year of West Elementary in 2009-10. There were just those two nagging problems - traffic chaos outside the entrance at the start and end of days and class times that were greatly different from those at West Middle School (with which it shares the building off Pikes Peak Avenue and 20th Street).

This explanatory graphic is being provided to families of students attending West Elementary (entrance at 25 N. 20th St.). It shows the changes in parking, turns and curbside uses that the school and District 11 worked out with city officials to improve intersection safety for students coming and going from school.
Courtesy of West Elementary; edited for publication by Westside Pioneer

       Nearing the start of the 2010-11 school year Aug. 18, both problems appear to have been solved.
       For traffic, an official crossing guard is now on duty at 20th and Kiowa streets, and the school, city and school district have worked out changes in parking, turns and curbside uses that Martinez believes will ease pickups/drop-offs and aid student safety in general.
       For class times, the elementary's starting and ending times have been moved up to only 10 minutes earlier than those at West Middle. Normally, elementary schools' days are a half-hour shorter than middle schools', but the district is using federal stimulus money to cover the cost of extending the elementary's day so it's just as long, Martinez said.
       Traffic: A big change is the elimination of several parking spaces on the school side of 20th Street south and north of the crosswalk at Kiowa. South of it, a pull-off area has been created for buses, with just a few parking spaces retained for handicapped motorists. North of it is now a “kiss-and-drop,” to use the school term, with room for private vehicles letting off or picking up kids. A staff member will be on hand to help students and parents link up with each other and keep vehicles moving through, Martinez said.
       Aiding the situation at 20th and Kiowa, cones will be put out during the 10-minute after-school rush to prevent any left turns. This will help keep traffic flowing, Martinez explained. “We want to keep the intersection clear.”
       Through most of last year, the school lacked a crossing guard at 20th and Kiowa. The request had been denied by the city (which pays the expense) because its analysis did not show the intersection being dangerous enough. As a result, West staffers would unofficially serve in that role, escorting students across 20th before and after school. Eventually, Martinez succeeded in what he jokingly called “tenacious whining” to convince D-11 officials to pay the city to put a guard at the intersection. A guard finally started there in May, and “it really helped,” he said.

The walls of the West Elementary cafeteria were filled with student works last May for its Art Night event.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Class times: West Elementary will start 30 minutes later than last year - at 8:30 a.m., with the final bell at 3:30 p.m. West Middle will continue to go from 8:40 a.m. to 3:40 p.m.
       Having the additional time allows the school to make sure none of the core subjects are sacrificed to other school-time demands, Martinez explained. “We're really going to focus that extra half hour on reading, math, science and social studies,” he said. “It's a good thing to extend our day. It's what I think a lot of schools would like to do.”
       The only complaints he's received are not about the longer day, but that a later start time complicates matters for some working parents. So the school has set up a supervised “homework club” starting at 7:30 a.m. in the school library. And, at 7:50 a.m., the cafeteria is open for breakfast, he pointed out.
       Closely aligning its hours with West Middle has the additional benefit of allowing the staff from both schools to meet more easily before and after school. A common reason for such meetings is to discuss more ways the schools can work together - with the ultimate goal being a true K-8 school in the building, possibly as early as 2011-12.
       “What we've told the board is that a plan will definitely be in place by next year, but we don't know yet what it will actually look like,” the principal said.
       Because the stimulus allocation for the longer day will run out after this school year, no one can say how or if that money - which chiefly pays employees to work an extra half-hour a day - will be available in the future, Martinez said.

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