Parents renew calls for traffic safety

CITY HALL — Toll Middle School parents again called on the City Council on Wednesday to step up the city’s police presence on Glenwood Road where 11-year-old student Meri Nalbandyan was struck and killed Oct. 29 while using the cross walk.

Parents and board members of the school’s PTA said assigning a police patrol to the area of Glenwood Road that fronts three schools — Keppel Elementary, Toll Middle and Hoover High schools — between 7:45 and 8:15 a.m. would cause a interim shift in driving and pedestrian habits until a more comprehensive safety enhancement plan is settled on.

They also asked for more crossing guards to assist the thousands of students who cross the street each day to and from school.

“I am confident that you will do everything and anything to safeguard our children,” Ed Nazarian, whose two children attend Keppel Elementary, told the City Council on Wednesday. “But I plead with you...to do it in a speedy way.”

Meri, a sixth-grader at Toll Middle School, was struck and killed two weeks ago as she attempted to use a Glenwood crosswalk by a parent who had just dropped of her own child moments earlier.

The Nissan Pathfinder, which was traveling at about 15 mph, struck Meri just after 8 a.m., city officials said. She died from her injuries at the hospital later that day.

The incident rocked the tri-school parent community, many of whom said that given the congested, hurried morning ritual, it was only a matter of time before someone got hurt.

“It’s not safe for the kids, it’s not safe for — I could get hurt too,” Toll Middle School PTA President Janet Siraki told the council.

School district and city officials at a joint meeting last week began exploring possible safety enhancements to a traffic corridor that has already seen myriad changes over the years.

PTA members for all three schools were scheduled to meet privately with school district officials today to discuss safety alternatives ahead of a Nov. 19 community meeting at the Hoover auditorium.

“Traffic is an aspect of safety that the district has continued to look at over the years and has made step by step improvements,” Glendale Unified School District Board of Education Member Nayiri Nahabedian said. “Are more changes needed? Of course.”

But City Manager Jim Starbird said Wednesday that while more traffic improvements would surely come out of the tragic accident, the city had already completed a long list of safety enhancements over the years.

Community discussions that arose after a fatal stabbing in front of Hoover High School seven years ago eventually led to converting two nearby cross streets to one-way thoroughfares, the installation of “candlesticks” on the center divider to discourage jaywalking and U-turns, widened drop-off zones, flashing lights embedded in the pavement along crosswalks and better signage, among other measures, he said.

Ten of the 25 city-subsidized district crossing guards are assigned to the Glenwood frontage alone, he added.

“In spite of all of that, this incident happened,” Starbird said.

Whatever comprehensive solution is worked out between the school district, which controls the campuses, and the city, which assumes responsibility for the surrounding infrastructure, officials said a complete evaluation would need to be done for such a unique school-oriented corridor.

“There’s no other schools like that in Glendale,” Councilman Dave Weaver said.

Nahabedian, who was not at the council meeting, agreed, acknowledging that any revision of the process — be it staggered school start times or roadway enhancements — would require “deliberative planning.”


 JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at jason.wells@latimes.com.

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