Get school traffic moving ASAP

info@islandpacket.comOctober 6, 2012 

Residents near Beaufort Elementary School have a right to complain about traffic that clogs their streets before and after school. Indeed, one resident reports that her driveway is blocked for an hour, twice each school day.

The city of Beaufort and the Beaufort County School District should work together -- and work quickly -- to keep traffic moving. They also must ensure the safety of those walking to school.

After all, the city and the school district spent years essentially seeking such traffic problems. As recently as the 2007-08 school year, the big concern was that this school sat half-empty, surrounded by a neighborhood that was nearly half-empty, too.

To its credit, the district created magnet programs -- specifically, Montessori classes, and a math- and science-infused curriculum -- that have turned a moribund building into a school parents are eager to have their children attend.

Many of those children are from outside the adjacent Northwest Quadrant neighborhood, which is dotted with vacant lots and inhabited largely by families that no longer have school-aged children.

So why don't the city and district seem better equipped to handle that traffic?

A city facilities director says it would help if Beaufort, not the S.C. Department of Transportation, owned the roads near the school, which needs additional parking for staff and visitors. DOT won't allow parking on the street.

However, one of the school's neighbors -- who also happens to be the wife of City Councilman George O'Kelley -- says she's been patrolling the parking lots and recently counted 17 empty spaces.

That indicates the problem is not parking, but traffic.

Fully opening nearby Bladen Street, which is undergoing work, should help, says a police officer familiar with the situation.

In the meantime, the city and district must work with the police department to resolve the problems.

A solution should be found given that this is a result of something the district and the city sought -- a bustling Beaufort Elementary School.

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