Increase in non-driving student population jams lots

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Brittany Cornelison

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Art by Maddy Meuller
As students may notice from the cramped hallways and overcrowded lunchroom, RBHS has grown significantly this year. With 2,337 students, RBHS is now the seventh largest school in Missouri and has pushed the boundaries of capacity. Increased student population has resulted for many in a daily sprint to the parking lot at the end of the day, in hopes that getting to the car 15 seconds earlier will decrease the chance of being stuck in traffic for half an hour or what seems like eternity.
Juniors and seniors who can park in the North and South lots are now up against more traffic than they have been in the past, as parents of both sophomores and freshmen push their way into the lots to retrieve their children. Frustration has risen from students who were already uneasy about the 4:05 p.m. release time but now also must wait around school for over half an hour just to make it off school grounds.
Students all knew this was coming, but seeing the actual chaos is a bit alarming as students, parents and faculty fight their way out of the parking lots. The faculty deserves credit, however, for attempting to aid in this stressful mess by placing staff outside as traffic control. These individuals should receive applause for taking on the daily task of guiding parents and student drivers in the mad dash to get off the premises.
Not only do they have to deal with irritable parents, but they have to control wretched teenage driving, as well. Having traffic control administrators standing at the South lot entrances and exits has greatly helped to decrease the amount of backup and has added a sort of organization to the disfunction.
Though there is an attempt at synchronization on the South side of the school, the North is left to fend for itself. As students exit from the North lot onto the side road, South Providence Trail, they must choose whether they want to brace two lanes of traffic and try to head toward Providence where the backup sometimes stretches as far as Arby’s, or if they want to head toward Southampton and try their best to avoid the traffic exiting the South lot as well as the busses. It’s somewhat of a lose-lose situation.
It’s hard to miss the cones that now block off the beloved “Sophomore Alley,” for this used to be the after-school escape for some to avoid Southampton traffic. However, now that this road is no longer passable, the backup on this street stretches for about a quarter mile.
In addition, The Insurance Group has completely voided the “sneaky” escape through their parking lot. This is technically a private drive, and this year, it has been heavily enforced that students may not drive through it. Police officers stood in the middle of this drive to warn any students who tried to enter that they were trespassing. This action laid down the law for students, who now know there will be consequences if they enter.
Trying to get more than 2,000 students off the campus in a matter of minutes is logistically impossible. Even with possible solutions being considered as ways to calm the road rage, the practicality of many of these is next to nothing. One vocalized idea, shut down because of the costliness, was that RBHS purchase a piece of land behind the Columbia Area Career Center and construct an alternate entrance/exit in the north parking lot. Exiting school property from here would create less traffic on the side road but would cost the school board quite a chunk of change.
A less costly, but more supervised route would be to create a system of parent pick up that avoids student traffic. In order to make this happen, officials would have to stand in the parking lot and direct parents in and out at specific spots. Doing this would regulate the flow of traffic and make it so students would go out one way as parents came in another. However, this would definitely require more staff to help in traffic control, and who knows if any parents or students would actually obey the guidelines of the system.
Those who are worried about costliness might like an idea which requires no addition of staff, such as telling parents they cannot pick up their children until 15 minutes after the final bell of the school day rings. This would give the driving students a head start at escaping the lot without having to avoid crashing into parents sitting and blocking traffic. But, with a release time already an hour later than previous years, most students wouldn’t be pleased with the idea of having to wait around school for an extra 15 to 30 minutes, and parents haven’t vocalized immense support for this idea either.
In any option considered, someone is going to be disappointed. Whether it be parents angry with pick up routines or students upset about the amount of time it takes to get off campus, pleasing everyone is impossible. But regardless of this, something must be done, or students are going to be blasting their air conditioning or heat while sitting idly and consequently causing a great pain to their gas tanks and already starved pockets.
As of right now, the most cost efficient and least administration-taxing plan would be to change the pickup times for underclassmen parents.
However, neither of these options seem pleasing to either of the parties. It seems as though students figure their only option of escaping the painful traffic is either to sneak out of class early and race out of the parking lot before the traffic begins or wait until 4:30 p.m. to even attempt driving at all.
There is no easy or wholly crowd-pleasing solution, but the best way to make sure all students get out safely and efficiently would be to make a tiered system, having one grade level be released at a time.
In doing this, each class would have the ability to get to their cars without the mass chaos of 2,000 plus students trying to vacate the premises at the same time.
Though this may not please all, it would definitely be an option to explore and outweighs the benefits of the current system.
By Brittany Cornelison