One of the more difficult columns I wrote last year was in the aftermath of the tragic death of young Meri Nalbandyan, who was struck by an automobile while crossing in front of Toll Middle School on Glenwood Road, where three schools converge — Hoover High, Toll and Keppel Elementary.
The consensus among city and Glendale Unified School District officials was, and is, “something must be done.” I, and a number of other people directly involved with the situation, think we have an excellent solution.
What follows here, however, comes under the category of “Nice idea but won’t happen.” Why that is true remains a mystery to me, which city and school district officials may or may not clear up should any of you make inquiries. Be that as it may, in response to “something must be done,” I will suggest, or rather reiterate, an idea that was supported by many of the teachers, parents and community members I polled. The suggestion (or, as it turns out, pipe dream) is that the portion of Glenwood in front of the three schools be paved over and permanently closed to cars.
I spoke up at a community meeting that was attended by top officials in the city and school district suggesting this closure and the response was — no response at all. The objection, as I think I understand it, is that by closing Glenwood, traffic would be diverted from the front of the schools to peripheral areas around each school, thereby only transferring the congestion elsewhere.
My answer to that would be, yes, but the traffic would be confined to one school and not three, and that would make all the difference in the world.
It is that convergence of autos and kids in one area that needs to be addressed. The other objection to reconfiguring and redirecting traffic is that it would be an “inconvenience” to the neighbors surrounding the schools. That objection strikes me as lame in the extreme. Leaving aside the forseeability of heavier traffic for people choosing to live near three public schools, the word “inconvenience” hardly seems appropriate when the issue is the physical safety of our children.
Still, the powers that be insist that Glenwood remain a thoroughfare.
The “solutions” thus far suggested include: More flashing lights, more stop signs, more crossing guards, an island/divider in the middle of the road — none of which will decrease the volume of traffic in front of the three schools.
I brought up another related issue at the community meeting to Traffic and Transportation Administrator Jano Baghdanian involving School Street.
For years this one-way street went from south to north and then, a few years back, inexplicably the city decided to reverse the direction of the street north to south. What that did was create a daily traffic jam for teachers and students when exiting Hoover, require left-hand turns upon entry to and exit from the street, precipitating a number of accidents at the corner of School and Glenwood. Worst of all, this change directed traffic at the beginning and end of each school day down onto Glenwood, thereby increasing the congestion on the very street that we’re trying to decrease vehicular traffic.
When I presented those facts to Baghdanian, he said he would look into it, which indeed he did. He was kind enough to send me a few paragraphs detailing why the change had originally been made.
Virginia Street had been converted to a one-way south/north street, which somehow necessitated changing School Street into a north/south street to balance the traffic around Hoover.
That explanation does not address any of the objections above. Most of us who daily drive the streets around the three schools regard the redirection of School Street as an obvious mistake by Glendale’s Traffic Department. This is the same department that now, “after careful study,” proposes a solution to make Glenwood safer.
Our city is provided with a historic opportunity to create not only a safer environment but an educationally dynamic one for Hoover, Toll and Keppel. A central courtyard joining the three schools could become a showpiece for the city and the pride and joy of our school district.
It would provide innumerable opportunities for joint assemblies, for performances, for art fairs, for community activities, for interactions on many levels that would benefit kids from kindergarten through high school.
And best of all, no more cars competing for space with 4,000 students who enter and exit our schools each and every day.
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.