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February 28, 2024

Hollister school officials talk of using buses to ease campus congestion

With increasing concern this year about traffic issues at Hollister schools, district trustees Tuesday talked over the idea of piloting an expanded busing system next school year.

The Hollister School District in 2012 eliminated bus transportation from students’ homes to their designated campuses. This school year, with the district continually growing, there has been an increased concern about traffic congestion and other safety issues surrounding driving habits of parents, guardians and childcare providers who drop off and pick up children.

Trustees heard a report Tuesday from John Teliha, the facilities director for the district, who offered several possible solutions as tools to deal with the problems at local schools.

One of those ideas was to coordinate with the Council of San Benito County Governments to share certain bus stops and have a system where buses pick up and drop off students at those locations. The idea was referred to as a potential pilot project, while there were no potential costs discussed.

Superintendent Diego Ochoa added how the preliminary plan would be to have two pickups at the sites, an early one to encourage children to eat breakfast once they arrive to school and a later bus that drops off students shortly before the school day begins.

“We want to have a bus stop and pickup time that allows that to happen,” Ochoa told trustees.

The district currently has a policy of a 1.5-mile walking radius for elementary school students and two miles for middle school students. Officials believe a limited busing system has caused a good deal of the congestion at several local schools, with particular concern at Gabilan Hills/Hollister Dual Language Academy, Calaveras/Accelerated Achievement Academy, R.O. Hardin/Hollister Prep and Marguerite Maze Middle School.

A district isn’t required to provide bus service other than to special education students. With a lack of busing, some of the traffic issues without include long lines of vehicles waiting for students, vehicles parked illegally and drivers often doing illegal maneuvers, officials mentioned in the conversation.

Other means of addressing the situation were discussed Tuesday as well. The district this year drafted letters and sent them to families reminding them of proper etiquette, issuing of pickup/dropoff maps to help drivers, and meeting with Hollister police and local government engineers to talk over traffic matters.  

One trustee, Carla Torres-Deluna, took issue with the approach of increased enforcement from the Hollister Police Department. She said she’s one of those parents who arrives at 2 p.m. way before the school day ends to ensure she gets a decent spot to pick up a child.

“I felt that the conversation was not parent friendly, and I wasn’t the only one,” she said. “I just want us to be careful and think about the impact. Also, are we just giving tickets to parents and not even addressing the root?”

As for Maze, there was discussion about the city’s decision to re-stripe in front of the school to make left-turns illegal. It happened without consultation of the district, something that didn’t sit well with Trustee Rob Bernosky, who said he wants to get the city’s elected officials in on the conversation.

“Look, to do that without taking the school’s thoughts into account doesn’t seem very friendly from one government agency to another,” Bernosky told San Benito Live.

Another solution discussed Tuesday that’s specific to Maze and Gabilan Hills was promoting a pathway between the two schools that would allow students to walk from one site to the other and be picked up or dropped off there, thus easing some congestion.

Officials also discussed how this summer, all school sites will have parking lots remarked and striped with new signage going up.

Neither Teliha nor Transportation Coordinator Noelia Lara could not be reached immediately Wednesday to expand on the issue.

Photo: Pickup at the Accelerated Achievement Academy, which is on the Calaveras School campus, on Tuesday.