The Quaker Valley School District's Traffic Safety Advisory Committee has recommended that the school board explore adding a student drop-off and pickup lane adjacent to the front of the high school entrance in Leetsdale.
And it has petitioned the state for additional signs on Route 65 to improve traffic flow.
School officials said that the committee met for four months starting in February to "analyze the pedestrian/car/bus safety issues on and around the high school campus and to recommend opportunities to mitigate safety concerns."
Committee member Jerilyn Scott, speaking about the problem accessing the front of the school that faces Beaver Street, said "there is currently nowhere near the front of the building to pull over and drop off a student, nowhere to idle for a moment while waiting to pick up a student, and no way to keep bus, car and pedestrian traffic from clashing at the busiest hours."
She also said students and parents have resisted for practicality and safety reasons from using the back corner of the campus off Route 65 for drop-offs and pickups.
The committee also suggested trimming vegetation to improve visibility, installing a blind spot mirror, adding stop signs, eliminating some parking spots, identifying temporary handicap/senior citizen-designated parking spots and making changes to create walking paths to the school.
While committee members agreed upon many items to improve student safety, they disagreed about the district's purchase and possible future development of several homes near the school.
The district purchased two properties in 2012 and there is talk about acquiring a third property adjacent to the high school.
Jerilyn Scott, a member of the Traffic Safety Advisory Committee, said that "the acquisition and possible development of the properties adjacent to the south side of campus were the biggest areas of contention on the committee."
She said while some members are "adamantly opposed to expanding the footprint of the campus and changing the character of the neighborhood under any circumstances," others "feel that acquiring the properties, thereby providing more frontage along Beaver Street, is the only real solution to the lack of access to the front of the building."
She noted the lack of Beaver Street frontage makes it "impossible" to separate bus traffic from car and pedestrian traffic adequately.
Committee member and Leetsdale council president Joe McGurk, who lives on Beaver Street, said, "We've been fighting because we believe taking these three homes is taking 33 percent of our neighborhood. It is for them to put in a parking lot and a new bus lane, which we believe is totally unnecessary," but "right now they are not willing to say that," he added, supporting some of the committee members' belief that the district has not been forthcoming about their plans with the three properties.
Committee member Sandy Ford also lives on Beaver Street. She said that the school district "went behind our backs and bought these homes and we didn't know anything about it."
"They really don't need a parking lot," she said. "There are 65 spaces on the other side of the school." She added, "They want to build onto this high school. Why not be honest with people? Why say it is a safety issue?"
Mr. McGurk said that Quaker Valley superintendent Joseph Clapper "has made it fairly clear that [a parking lot] is what he wants," and "putting in 60 more parking spots isn't going to make it safer for kids.
"As Leetsdale Borough Council president I am doing this for the Borough of Leetsdale, regardless of the neighborhood this is in -- mine or another," Mr. McGurk said. "I'm this passionate because Leetsdale is my town, and I don't think this is beneficial for my town."
According to documents on the district's website, during the June 18 meeting, the committee also made the recommendation to "contract with the appropriate professionals to complete a comprehensive site analysis, including geotechnical considerations, of the high school campus and adjacent properties in order to determine the future usability of the grounds for any potential renovation and expansion of the high school."
The document also says that, "pending the results of the recommended site analysis and a determination to renovate the high school at its current location, a majority of the committee supports the option to develop the properties south of the high school."
Although, some committee members feel that the administration did not report the committee findings accurately, member Tom Weber said that the "so-called 'final recommendations' do not approach 75 percent of the committee members."
"Someone in the administration who was entrusted by this committee to report the facts and findings of this committee accurately and fairly has committed a blatant error of omission of the material facts and findings of this committee in order to foster the administration's agenda, a 'land grab' of local properties," he said.
"Long-term agreements were not agreed upon," Mrs. Ford said. "I guess our mission now is to replace this school board one by one because they don't listen to the people. They simply don't care about what people in the community want."
However, Mrs. Scott said that even though "committee members disagreed on many things even after much discussion, the discussions were all open and respectful." And, "the report submitted to the school board was a fair and accurate representation of our work, detailing areas of consensus and acknowledging areas of disagreement."
Shellie Petri Budzeak, freelance writer: email@example.com.