Civic group discuss traffic problems around Pollock School

Discussions are underway to solve a traffic bottleneck and safety hazard outside the Robert B. Pollock Elementary School during daily student arrival and dismissal times. Principal Dontae Wilson and members of the Holme Circle Civic Association exchanged their thoughts on the arrival and dismissal problems during the HCCA’s monthly meeting on Sept. 23 at St. Jerome’s Parish.

Wilson explained that multiple factors, including the configuration of the school parking lot and behavior of parents, contribute to what he described as a “parking situation” around the school at 2875 Welsh Road.

Neighbors say that Welsh Road has become a de facto parking lot for the school at certain times of day since the start of the academic year. Parents park in the street, double park and block neighbors’ driveways while dropping off their kids in the morning and picking them up in the afternoon. Wilson doesn’t deny it.

“Welsh Road is a busy place,” the principal said.

The school has sent messages to students’ homes warning parents not to block driveways and to be courteous to neighbors. The school has encouraged parents to plan their arrivals 10 minutes earlier so that they aren’t in such a rush. But “some still resist,” Wilson said. So administrators are exploring other options for dealing with troublesome parents through the school district. Ultimately, Welsh Road is a public street and not under the school district’s control.

Parents probably don’t like using the school’s parking lot because it’s too crowded, Wilson said. Five different buses use the lot each morning, one of which makes two drop-offs. About 300 cars enter the lot each day.

“So it’s very busy,” Wilson said.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that the lot has only one entrance. So cars and buses have to find a way to turn around within the confined space. Ideally, vehicles would be able to exit from the rear of the lot onto Ashton Road, but there are no specific plans to build a new exit. Such a project would likely require approvals from the city.

At the HCCA meeting, some neighbors asked the principal to position school security officers or staff on Welsh Road at key times to direct traffic and keep the roadway clear. But school officials don’t really have the authority to do that. Other neighbors called for a greater Philadelphia police presence at the location.

Otherwise, some very positive things are happening at Pollock, according to Wilson. More than 500 families took part in a recent Back to School Night. And while the state’s new common core standards have “raised the bar” for students, Wilson said, Pollock students as a group performed near the top of the city’s public schools on the latest testing.

Pollock is teaming with the Playworks organization to re-emphasize recess in school. A recess coach will work with younger grades to help them maximize the benefits of recess, such as exercise and taking a mental break. Recess coaches also teach kids how to avoid and resolve conflicts that traditionally occur during recess.

Teachers will try to incorporate the same principles in the classroom with “play breaks” that have academic value but also teach practical lessons like fair play and teamwork. The basics still form the foundation of the curriculum.

“Ultimately, we want kids to read, write, do math and be prepared for their future,” Wilson said. ••