Parents bringing their children to the Paynesville Area Elementary School this fall may need to find an alternate route to the school.
As a safety measure, only school buses will be allowed on Mill Street as school begins and ends. After a trial period last spring, school administration and the school bus company agreed to block off the street to create a bus-only zone in front of the school.
In the morning, members of the school patrol will block off Mill Street from Stearns Avenue to Augusta Avenue from 7:45 to 8:05 a.m. Parents may drop off their children on Stearns Avenue on the west side of the school, on Mill Street between Augusta Avenue and Washburne Avenue, or on Washburne Avenue on the east end of the playground.
In the afternoon, the school patrol will block traffic to all of Mill Street in front of the elementary school from 2:45 to 3:05 p.m. Parents may pick up their children on the west side of the school on Stearns Avenue or on the east end of the playground on Washburne Avenue at dismissal time.
Because of the street construction on Mill Street last spring, the school buses loaded and unloaded on Stearns Avenue for the last month of school. During that time, the one-block area was blocked to traffic while the buses were at school.
According to elementary principal Todd Burlingame, things ran smoother last year when cars weren't blocking the school bus area and students weren't crossing the bus line to meet their parents.
"It worked out very well last spring," Burlingame said of blocking Stearns Avenue to outside traffic.
Phyllis Nielsen, owner of Paynesville Motor and Transfer, said Mill Street has always been a problem area for school buses. The buses need to park end to end so children can't cut through and cross the street. Students are only to cross the streets at the intersections by the crossing guards.
Instead of unloading, some cars park in the area that the buses load and unload, leaving awkward spaces for the buses to maneuver. The buses may be unable to park in sequence, making it difficult for students to find their designated bus.
"Since things worked out so well last spring, we thought it would work in front of the school," Nielsen said. "The street will be closed off 20 minutes morning and afternoon," she added.
While Paynesville has never had a bus or passenger accident, with hundreds of students unloading and dozens of vehicles passing the school, the potential exists.
"We hope this isn't a big inconvenience for parents," Burlingame added. "It is a precautionary measure to ensure student safety."
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