[Editor's note: This story was updated on Jan. 31 at 9:30 a.m. to include an update from the Missouri Attorney General's Office.]
A new traffic plan for cars and buses at Long Elementary School has some nearby residents concerned about the safety risks it may pose to their subdivision.
Last month the Lindbergh School District announced the purchase of 4.6 acres of land next to Long, on the border of Crestwood and Sunset Hills. The land will be used to expand the parking lot and add field space to the campus. They’re also making an effort to improve traffic flow for pedestrians and vehicles, according to Assistant Superintendent for Finance Charles Triplett.
“It’s about keeping cars, buses and pedestrians as separate as possible,” he said.
A traffic drawing and summary of the proposed traffic flow were made available to the school district on Friday, Triplett said. They were forwarded to Crestwood city officials and the Crestwood Police Department. A copy of the traffic map provided to Patch is included above.
Under the new traffic plan, all buses would exit the property through a proposed road connected to Doercrest Drive, a vein to Eddie & Park Road for more than 20 homes in the subdivision.
Concerned Doercrest residents discussed documents provided by the school district during a resident meeting at Southview School on Tuesday. They're hoping to present an alternative to the school district in the near future.
The land plan has yet to be approved by the Board of Education, and no permit applications have been filed with the City of Crestwood.
Crestwood Mayor Jeff Schlink, who was in attendance Tuesday, said the city attorney was aware of the situation and would likely determine within the next few days whether the school requires a planning and zoning hearing.
Proposed traffic plan highlights:
- All vehicles would enter through two entrances on Sappington Road
- The school’s current entrance will remain intact as an entrance-only drive; a southern driveway will have a two-lane exit and one-lane entrance. All cars would exit the property from the southern drive.
- The school’s five buses would head south down a new road connected to Doercrest Drive through a gate operated by a district staffer. The staff member has not yet been determined, Triplett said.
- Two buses would head west on Eddie & Park Road
- Three buses would head east on Eddie & Park Road, with one of those turning north onto Sappington. (Currently one bus travels north on Sappington Road when it leaves, Triplett said.)
- Triplett believes that mid-day kindergarten buses and activity buses not running during peak times (like field trips) would use the Sappington Road exit.
Doercrest resident concerns
Doercrest Drive resident Frank Ruzicka emphasized that their concern is for safety—of subdivision residents, students on buses, and drivers on Eddie & Park.
“I don’t want to paint this as evil—we support expansion,” Ruzicka said Tuesday.
One of the residents’ main concerns is the visibility for vehicles turning from Doercrest onto Eddie & Park.
“Residents had cautioned us about the hill coming down toward Doercrest—for cars it’s different, it’s hard see on Eddie & Park headed west if you’re coming off. For bus drivers the seats are higher, so that sight is not a problem,” Triplett said.
Ruzicka expressed concern that the gate wouldn’t be maintained. One resident also pointed out that parents could park in the subdivision to wait for their children after school. Triplett, however, said extra parking spaces should be more than ample for parent pick-ups and drop-offs.
There aren't any major issues for buses getting onto Sappington under the current plan, Triplett said, save occasional vehicle-back up while waiting to make a northbound turn. He believes funneling the buses down Doercrest will free up parent vehicles from waiting on bus traffic, and eliminates the need for children to cross parking lot traffic to get in and out of the school.
The district doesn't have current plans to conduct a traffic study, Triplett said, though residents who attended the meeting believe the plan will affect people outside of their neighborhood, including Wembley Woods residents, Eddie and Park traffic, and nearby Southview School.
Tuesday Ruzicka commended a proposed woodland trail that will act as a buffer between the homes and school grounds. But, he said, “I feel like we’re not being dealt with fairly.”
He described the neighborhood’s contact with the school since the land purchase on Dec. 18. Ruzicka said Long parents received an email about the purchase mentioning an exit at Eddie & Park that day; letters to Doercrest Drive residents inviting them to a meeting on the changes came hand-written early this month. About 40 residents attended the meeting, Ruzicka said.
Residents got the impression from the school officials that the plan was a "done deal" and wouldn't require any public hearing, resident Denni Laws said.
During the first meeting only one or two buses were proposed to travel down the residential street, Doercrest residents said. Triplett confirmed to Patch that an earlier concept would have funneled a couple buses and some cars onto Doercrest; this concept was reconfigured based on resident feedback, he said.
Ruzicka said residents would like to present an alternative plan to the school. For now, they’re spreading awareness to their neighbors. While Ruzicka said the group is at a grassroots stage and they have no plans to hire an attorney on their behalf, he did encourage residents to contact their local officials and sign a petition against the bus access on Doercrest Drive. They also plan to address the matter with the Board of Education at a future meeting.
Ruzicka filed a Sunshine request for all district documents related to the land purchase, but only the map and traffic summary are available at this time. He said he had a “tough time” believing that no other documentation existed, and recently filed a complaint with Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster’s Office.
A spokesman with the office said the complaint is being processed.
The district’s Board of Education approved the $850,000 purchase during a closed meeting in October. Approximately $1.25 million in Certificates of Participation (COPs) will be used to finance the project based on a 20-year repayment plan, according to a release from the school district.