School to test traffic-safety program

GLENDALE — A group of R.D. White Elementary School parents and staff members plan to unveil a pilot valet drop-off program June 1 in front of the campus to better improve traffic and increase child safety.

The pilot program was created to enhance the school’s already-established drop-off and pick-up lane on Everett Street in the wake of a string of accidents in which students were hit by distracted parent drivers in crowded loading zones at several Glendale Unified schools.

The death of 11-year-old Meri Nalbandyan — who was killed Oct. 29 by parent Yurie Park’s SUV as she used a marked crosswalk in front of Toll Middle School — still looms large over campuses, prompting parents and teachers to tailor safety plans according to their unique traffic conditions.

“That could happen anywhere, any time,” Principal Suzanne Risse said.

Under the plan, volunteer parents will monitor the drop-off and pick-up of students, open car doors and make sure the child exits and enters the school safely, Risse said. They will also make sure cars move smoothly and don’t make unnecessary stops, she added.

Risse said the three-week pilot program will be a more structured and well-manned operation than what is already in place at the school. Orange cones are currently set up outside the school to designate the pick-up and drop-off lane, but it doesn’t run smoothly, she said.

“Every day I see infractions of some sort,” said Risse, who monitors traffic most mornings in front of the campus.

After Meri’s death, parent Kara Sergile met with Risse and other school officials to discuss traffic safety at R.D. White, and later formed the campus’ School Safety Task Force, which includes PTA members, parents, teachers and school administrators.

“We have to do something,” Sergile said. “We can’t afford for that to happen in front of our school.”

The task force created a safety assessment report of the school’s drop-off and pick-up in February, Sergile said.

Parents observed traffic patterns in front of the school for two weeks as part of the report. They recorded 10 near-miss pedestrian accidents, 309 people jaywalking and 293 motorists parked illegally.

Parent Dominique Lopez was one of the task force members who helped with the report.

“Drivers were extremely impatient and were not paying attention because they were in a hurry,” she said.

Since Lopez helped with the study, she is more cognizant of her surroundings.

“I still make an effort to look two, three, four or five times in both directions before we cross the street,” she said.

School officials and volunteers plan to teach parents and students about moving through traffic safely and will praise them for doing so, Risse said.

“We realize we can’t fix it all right now,” she said.

But she hopes the program is a step in the right direction. If it’s successful, she said, it will be implemented in the next school year and will include other streets.

The school will be conducting assemblies next week to show students how to help their parents move through the drop-off and pick-up lane.

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