With school recently starting, it means traffic around local campuses can get hectic in the mornings and afternoons.
Hollister Police Sgt. Don Pershall, who oversees the local school resource officers, offered insight on how the agency works with schools to keep the traffic situations as calm as possible.
“We basically just try to enforce traffic during drop-off and pickup,” said Pershall in a recent interview.
He said the police department coordinates with the local elementary, middle and high schools — and assigns school resource officers to monitor traffic. There is one SRO assigned to San Benito High School and its 3,000 or so students, along with two SROs handling the 11 other grade schools in the city and about 5,600 students on those campuses.
He mentioned how the SRO at San Benito High School is working on trying to make Monterey Street a temporary loading zone with the closure issues happening on Nash Road.
“We’re trying to figure out strategies to try to mitigate the backups there during drop-off and pickups,” he said. “For the other schools, they’ll really target traffic in the mornings and the afternoons and do what they can do, not necessarily writing a bunch of citations.”
He said police do write some citations, but when the school year is starting officers largely remind parents to follow the rules.
“The main thing is to be patient,” he said. “I understand trying to get to your school and back, but the kid gets in danger or gets hit” when drivers aren’t careful.
The main issue around local campuses is “extreme congestion” and it’s something on which the police department is working, he said. One issue in particular is how vehicles often line up in the roadway where traffic is meant to flow. He said illegal U-turns are another big problem.
“It’s patience,” he said. “It’s not following the things like U-turns, the dangerous U-turns, going too fast and trying to get around cars, that type of thing.”
Pershall went on: “It’s unfortunate, and we don’t have all the solutions as far as figuring it out. But if it’s egregious, we’re definitely going to enforce the traffic laws,” he said. “We do anyway.”
Part of the equation with school traffic falls on the schools themselves, which assign staff members to monitor the drop-off and pick-up areas.
Over at the Gabilan Hills/Hollister Dual Language Academy, Principal Monique Ruiz said the two-school campus has undergone some significant changes in managing school traffic this year. The school administration’s goal was to make the situation more orderly. That’s a big challenge considering there are around 1,000 students on the campus, and this year the two schools are letting out at the same time in the afternoon.
Ruiz said it was hectic the first week and many parents were upset, but they have come to understand the system in place.
“Every year at the beginning of the year, all the parents want to drop the kids and see how they’re doing, which is totally normal,” Ruiz said.
The school traffic situation, and parents’ reactions, improved dramatically from the first week to the second week, she said.
“People aren’t complaining anymore, at least not to me,” she said. “Everybody knows the deal now.”
The two schools deal with traffic by employing a yard duty, an extra yard duty at times and teachers who rotate every week at various stations for pick-up or drop-off, Ruiz said. The campus also uses specific strategies this year such as color-coded I.D. cards attached to vehicles for efficiency purposes so the school doesn’t have to stop and ask the parent who they’re picking up, and can merely call out the students’ names. There’s a similar identification system for parents who walk up and wait in order to avoid “chaos” while they are mixed in with all the students,, she said.
“We have two-minute turnaround from the driveway to the other side of the driveway,” Ruiz said.
Still, with a not-so-ideal neighborhood layout for school traffic being it’s a two-lane rural road, some backups are inevitable. Overall, though, she’s happy with the progress so far.
“There are backups and things like that, but that’s out of our control,” she said. “We’re doing our part inside here and we’re asking for communication.”
She said Gabilan Hills/HDLA works with the police department, like other campuses, to find the best practices.
Throughout Hollister, there haven’t been any serious problems so far this school year, as Pershall called things “pretty mellow” at this point. He also said traffic isn’t the only priority for SROs, as they handle other duties when it’s not the early morning or afternoons. One of the SROs teaches the Gang Resistance Education and Training program during the day to 600-1,200 students per year, while they respond to any criminal activity as well, mostly fights.
Sometimes the resource officers find drugs and other illicit items. And with the new law legalizing adult-use cannabis, Pershall said police have noticed a slight uptick in marijuana issues in 2018 compared with 2017.
On a Related Note
SBHS issued these traffic reminders on its website:
With school starting, San Benito High School reminds students and parents that the following areas are student drop-off and pick-up zones:
• The Football Stadium parking lot
- The Tennis Court parking lot
- The LTIS parking lot (Southwest part of campus)
- Baler Alley between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. for drop off and 2:50 – 3:30 p.m. for pick up. (Baler Alley will be closed at all other times.)
Please avoid dropping off and picking up students on side streets surrounding the campus. Additionally, the Mattson Gym parking lot is NOT a drop-off or pick up zone. Please check your email or the school website for a map of these zones.
School Traffic Tips
San Benito County Public Health Services offered these tips on school traffic to start the new year: http://SANBENITOLIVE.COM/public-health-safety-tips-to-start-school-year/