Let me try to describe Glenwood Road between 7 and 8 a.m. and 3 and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday in front of Hoover High School, Toll Middle School and Mark Keppel Elementary School.
As many of you know, the three schools face one another on the same block, and literally thousands of students converge on this small stretch of a city thoroughfare to drop off their kids.
There are occasional speeders who enter the mix; there are impatient parents who scoot around and speed by other drivers not moving fast enough; there are drivers of SUVs sitting high up and little children walking in front of them below the grills of their cars; there are young people from other schools looking to impress or challenge; and, more ominously, there are occasionally gang-affiliated youth looking to confront. All of this in an area that has children ages 5 to 18 crisscrossing the same street used by all of these vehicles.
In the last decade there have been three deaths in this central area between our schools and all involving this potentially lethal combination of a crush of automobiles and pedestrians. The death of Raul Aguirre eight years ago caused the powers that be to close Glenwood for a month. Many of us at the time thought this to be not only a sane reaction but also the beginning of a plan to eliminate cars from that stretch of Glenwood. Instead, it turned out to be an appeasement.
While passions and tempers flared and lawsuits and retaliations were whispered, the street remained closed. But the thinkers and planners and designers who make such decisions decided that the closure would be only temporary. Let the passions subside, they reasoned, and we’ll just go back to the way things were.
The latest auto accident in front of our schools involving the loss of a precious young child will hopefully result in something more than half-measures or temporary appeasements. A permanent closure of this one block of Glenwood for the safety of our children makes sense for so many reasons, and if it is to be considered by traffic engineers and our Police Department, hopefully they will give greater weight to the well being of children than they do a smooth traffic flow.
Likewise for the City Council that will undoubtedly hear complaints from neighbors in the vicinity of the three schools who may be affected for a few hours each day by such a closure. One wonders how heavily the inconvenience of residents who chose to live near three schools will weigh on our councilmen should this ever come to a vote.
Consider these suggestions from some of my colleagues who work in this area day in and day out.
Create a one-way loop around the three campuses so that no one would cross the street to get to the curb where their school is located.
How about more kids actually walking to school? For the younger ones, that might involve parents taking turns with other parents walking with groups of kids. Better exercise for our under-exercised population and fewer cars hitting the streets.
It would be fantastic to have a long (no cars) block in front of the three schools as a common area that could be used by all three schools.
There could be lawn and trees, an area for musical performances, artistic displays, common assemblies, etc. — all of it uniting the three schools like nothing else could.
Close Glenwood from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. and from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. on school days. Install barriers that could be turned aside to accommodate emergency vehicles.
The idea of a common courtyard between our three schools has great appeal to those of us who spend our days working at Hoover, Toll and Keppel. We’ve talked about developing an “educational community” for years and creating a common area where our children, kindergarten through 12th grade, have a sense of belonging to something more than just a school — where they can mix and mingle and cooperate on joint projects and common goals. Before any of that, however, we owe it to our children to do all that we can to create a safe environment when they come to school.
There are about 100 yards of street in our city that need to be paved over and made safe for thousands of children, now and for generations to come. Surely our city planners and school district will be able to come up with a better arrangement than now exists on Glenwood.
My deepest sympathies go out to the family of Meri Nalbandyan. I know that I speak for all of us in the tri-school area, for all of us in the school district, and all of us in the wider community in expressing our sorrow for your loss.
DAN KIMBER is a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District, where he has taught for more than 30 years. He may be reached at DKimb8@ sbcglobal.net.