Stream of buses leaving Woodward school a problem – until it wasn’t

The in basket: A couple I know mentioned at a recent social function that they’d seen something upsetting on Bainbridge Island.

People in reflective jackets had stopped traffic on Sportsmen’s Club Road one afternoon so a string of school buses could all get out of the parking lot of Woodward Middle School at one time.

Two days later, though, the husband e-mailed me to say he’d gone to watch it again and no longer had any objection to it. “They stopped the traffic at 1:57 p.m. At 2:01 they had let out 17 loaded school buses. So I guess they got things under control.”

Still, I thought I’d give it a look myself and ask if the city police had OKd it – or suggested it.

The out basket: I talked with Robin Hanley and Susan Stricker, the two school employees wielding the stop sign paddles the day I was there.

Robin said she’s gotten an obscene earful from the occupants of a moving van she’d stopped a few days earlier, and a teenager had ignored her on another occasion. So she was paying attention to how long vehicles had had to wait.

That Thursday it took her two minutes and 40 seconds to get all the buses on the road. She claimed 18 buses, but three of them, smaller ones, came out before they stopped traffic.

There is good reason to avoid Sportsmen’s Club Road when the buses leave Woodward on school days, but it isn’t the procession of buses.

The real problem is the stream of cars driven by parents who picked up their children in the next parking lot south. Most of them head toward New Brooklyn Road, where they must wait at a permanent stop sign for cross-traffic to clear. It backed up so badly, I was doubtful there would be enough room for the large buses for which Robin and Sue ran interference to get out of their parking lot.  The 15th bus was barely able to get into traffic.

About then, the stream of parents’ cars eased and the buses – and the backed up traffic behind them – were able to move along pretty quickly.

Deputy Chief Jeff Horn of Bainbridge police told me, “I have spoken to a few of my officers who have been around a few years and none of them remember this issue coming up (in regards to suggesting the tactic to the school). I did speak to the school transportation department who stated they do not recall specifically discussing this with the police department.

“The school did say the process was implemented because the inability to get the buses out (due to the traffic) which caused issues getting the children home on time.  If they were to ask me my opinion, I’d agree with their assessment and solution.”

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