Maplewood group positive after hearing Atlantis school transportation plan

Date Published: 
August 16, 2018
Author: 
Michael Holtzman
News Type: 

FALL RIVER — Atlantis Charter School administrators said they will soon mail letters to their parents on transportation changes after a receptive meeting with members of the Maplewood Neighborhood Association.

“Pulling 400 students out of the car lines should make a tremendous difference,” Atlantis Executive Director Bob Beatty told about 35 people Wednesday night at the Letourneau School on Anthony Street.

That was in reference to using two buses each for upper school drop-offs and pick-ups and three each for the lower school, through a contract with two bus companies.

All bus entries will be through the Dickinson Street emergency entrance at the beginning and end of the school day, with buses exiting at the main 991 Jefferson St. Extension entrance.

That’s a newly built public road linked to Jefferson Street that all vehicle traffic bringing students has been required to use since the school opened its new $36 million campus by South Watuppa Pond in late February.

The brief half-hour presentation and discussion, and the general audience support, was a sharp contrast to a contentious Monday night forum when the school administration invited residents of Dickinson Street and that neighborhood to hear its plans.

Although they used staggered start times with a vehicle tag system to alleviate congestion, the traffic along Jefferson Street last winter and spring at the beginning and end of school remained significant, Beatty said.

He said those back-ups along Jefferson Street resulted in parents parking on both sides of Dickinson Street to let off students, tying up traffic in that relatively quiet neighborhood about a half-mile from Stafford Road.

“We recognize this is a change,” Atlantis Associate Executive Director Michael Lauro said of using Dickinson Street to bus students, “to rectify conditions.”

 

He noted that this summer Atlantis hired Fall River Patrolman Scott Cabral as its school resource officer. Cabral would be joined at the outset of the school year by a detail of city police to enforce the no-parking or standing regulations.

“They’ll be tagged or asked to move,” said Sgt. James Smith, who regularly attends the Maplewood meetings and provides updates on neighborhood and city crime.

Lauro said the school will encourage parents that dropping off their children early at the school will be in their interests.

School begins in less than two weeks, on Aug. 27.

Atlantis, which combined its three locations into one K-12 school at the new campus, had 1,207 students last year and has 1,290 registered for the start of school, officials said.

Beatty said the postings of where no-parking signs and hours — such as 7 to 9 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m. — are being finalized with city authorities. They would not affect night or overnight parking on Dickinson.

That will benefit the buses turning from Dickinson into the entrance, he said.

 

He said there would be “an extremely limited” number of students who live on Dickinson Street and in the neighborhood who are naturally able to walk to school or have their parents drop them off. That would be regularly monitored, Beatty said.

They met recently with city Director of Traffic Laura Ferreira and Lt. Paul Bernier, who heads the police traffic unit.

That information would be included in the communication to parents, Beatty said to a question about those impacts.

M. Earle Gaudette, Maplewood Neighborhood Association president, said if buses can pass quickly through the Dickinson Street neighborhood, there would not be disruptions.

He said the Atlantis administrators were seeking support from their group.

One man suggested a formal vote, while another noted the neighborhood group that stretches from Watuppa to Cook ponds, from the Tiverton line to Stafford Road, was not well represented at the meeting.

Beatty requested a letter in writing be sent to city officials in support of their transportation plan. He said with school soon approaching he would like to send the letter to parents that this “compromise” plan was in place. He received some applause.

 

Parent Kevin Poirier, who said his son, Cam, would be a sophomore at Atlantis, said afterward he thought the plan sounded like it would “relieve some of the traffic off Jefferson Street.”

Among several emails The Herald News received, Scott Silverman, president of Norbut Manufacturing at the end of Jefferson Street, said his company receives a majority of its deliveries during school dismissal time.

“The truck drivers have been very frustrated by the school traffic. The parked cars along Jefferson Street make it very difficult for them to maneuver their 18-wheelers, posing a huge safety concern,” Silverman wrote.

Another person who emailed about the issue, Linda Pacheco, questioned the objections of Dickinson Street residents to parents parking on their street.

“There are many streets in the city that have schools located on them. The residents of those streets understand,” Pacheco said.

Email Michael Holtzman at  or call him at 508-676-2573.