Safety Questions Surround School

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Public safety: Recent incident highlights risks to students

By Tris DeRoma

At first, Mary Ann Schnedler thought someone might have hit a deer. As headmaster of the Montessori School on Canyon Road since 1978, she’s seen her share of deer strikes.

However what happened outside her school a couple of weeks ago happened to be a little scarier than a deer strike; someone had come around the curve too fast on Canyon and crashed their car into the student pick-up and drop-off area. No one was hurt, not even the driver, but for Schnedler, that was pretty much the last straw.

“This certainly was an eye opener,” Schnedler said. “At the time, the parents were unloading their kids. If that car came to rest just a few inches closer, one of our parents or our children would’ve been hit.”

Compounding the problem, people weren’t even slowing down for the emergency vehicles that were parked trying to offer aid, she said.

According to Schnedler, the issues have been building for some time. When the school was founded in 1968, the neighborhood was a lot smaller back then. Through the years, however, the neighborhoods surrounding the school have grown up around it, but the signage along the road has not.

Noticeably absent on the roads the school sits between, Rose and Canyon, are any signs alerting drivers that they are entering a school zone, though there are pedestrian crossing signs positioned on both sides of Rose Street before passing the school. However, there are no speed limit signs on Rose Street.

To make matters worse, due to renovations to the school and United Church of Los Alamos, the school has had to use the outer parking lot on Canyon to pick up and drop off their students since an inner one at United Church, where the school operates out of, is temporarily off limits.

On Canyon, there is a posted speed limit of 35 mph, but no pedestrian crossing signs or an indication there is a school situated on the road.

Schnedler expressed concern that it’s only a matter of time before something worse happens.

Oftentimes, the teachers and the students have to walk to where they have to go, whether that’s to the Larry R. Walkup Aquatic Center, the Mesa Public Library or the Bradbury Science Museum.

“A lot of times the cars will stop, but a lot of other times they just whiz by like we don’t even exist,” Schnedler said.

Her next step may be to see if county council can remedy the situation.

If she does enlist the county’s help, there may be some options to pursue, according to councilor David Izraelevitz.

“Certainly, safety is a major concern ... especially with a vulnerable situation where kids are being dropped off at certain times of the day,” Izraelevitz said.

However, Izraelevitz said they be limited as to what they can do from a county perspective.

“We just can’t reduce the speed limit arbitrarily, but whatever we can do within constraints we should definitely consider,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that the way these types of situations come to our attention is after something happens. Hopefully we can address this before something more serious occurs.”

If county council does hear Schnedler’s concerns, most likely the area will undergo a traffic study first to see what the options are.

If that happens, Los Alamos County Traffic Engineer Kyle Zimmerman said they will see what they could do for the school.

However, Zimmerman also said “all the speed bumps and limits in the world are not going to change the behavior of an irrational driver, unfortunately.”