Parents of Papamoa College students are raising safety concerns about the traffic chaos they are experiencing when picking their children up from school.
The front school gates are usually open, allowing parents to access a pick-up lane at the end of the school day. Last week the college decided to close the gates from 2.30-3.30pm.
“I'm really concerned because it's forced a lot of children to run across main roads looking for waiting parents who are now circulating around the school due to the pick-up lane being closed,” says parent Debbie Miles.
Debbie is mother and step-mother to six children, four attending Papamoa College and two attending Papamoa Primary School. Routinely she collects two children from Papamoa Primary at 2.40pm and then drives to Papamoa College, where she parks in the car parks provided and waits for the four older children to finish school at 3.10pm.
On Monday, June 19 she arrived at the college to find the gates closed. Outside the college, chaos resulted with cars circling, double-parking, horns tooting, drivers yelling, and children wandering around and through traffic looking for parents.
As the college encourages feedback, Debbie emailed the principal Steve Lindsey with her concerns.
“Unfortunately over a long period of time there has been an increasing number of people displaying very poor and dangerous behaviour while on campus picking up their children,” says Steve.
“It was very disappointing that a large number of drivers would disregard no parking signs, yellow lines and traffic cones set out to prevent stopping in certain high risk areas. Driving at speed through the staff carpark added to an environment that was becoming increasing unsafe for students as they departed school.”
Debbie says if the school has closed the gates for safety concerns, then all it's done is push the problem into the community. “If the gates are going to be closed permanently then the children need to be educated on an exit strategy.”
Steve says teachers are talking to students about the need to travel home safely “and especially around being collected by parents.”
Debbie says it's only a matter of time before a child is hit by a car.
“There are 1000 students running from the school ground to parents' cars which are double-parked, circling all over the place. It's so dangerous,” says Debbie.
Other parents also expressed concern.
“Traffic before was poor,” says Jeremy Cunningham, “but the main issue seemed to be children running to their rides through the parked cars. With all the seniors and teachers parking in and around the drop-off area, the additional pick-up traffic is chaotic to say the least. Shutting the driveway seems like the college is washing its hands of any responsibility rather than addressing the issue.”
Papamoa police are encouraging students, parents and other road users in the area to practice caution at all times as there are a large number of young people in the area.
“Police have spoken with the school and with the local council in regards to issues with parking,” says Papamoa police Sergeant Tristan Murray. “They are working together to improve safe access.
“One bay remains open for buses. The other bay will remain closed in the interest of student safety. A safer choice is to set up a designated drop-off and pick-up spot further down the road on Doncaster Drive.”
Steve says there is clearly more traffic on the road in front of the school. “It is disappointing to see that some drivers are not following the road rules and also impacting neighbouring properties.”
Although there is an inconvenience factor because students can't easily be collected directly in front of the school, Steve believes parents are supporting the safety measure of closing the gates from 2.45-3.30pm.
Tauranga City Council transportation manager Martin Parkes says the council is aware of the issues and is working with the college on a plan to improve the situation.
Debbie believes a set of crossing lights will allow the kids to cross at intervals and help reduce the traffic congestion. She's prepared to volunteer one day per week to help.