Three schools. One roadway. Big problem all around

Karen Franklin/Contributing Writer

Screaming kids, impatient students, and the occasional napper behind the wheel are just a few of the sights as drivers attempt to leave the Biscayne Bay Campus during school zone hours.

Northeast 151st Street in North Miami is lined with a university, two relatively new schools, and only one way to enter and exit for parents, students and staff.

“It is absolutely ridiculous,” said Janice Graham, a parent of a 10-year-old at David Lawrence Jr. K-8 Educational Center, a school just several hundred feet between BBC and Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High School.

The location of the three schools and their proximity to the wetlands poses a unique problem, according to Lawrence Principal Bernard Osborn.

“It is so terrible and so crowded,” said Gloria Uquillas, a mother at Lawrence. “It takes a lot of time to go home.”

The surrounding habitat restricts building, and although plans for the schools were discussed prior to their construction, it doesn’t look like there is much hope for making another exit.

“There were not many options,” Osborn said.

The dilemma of building another entrance raised concerns from environmentalists who believe that construction would endanger the mangrove habitat. Others, however, worried that an emergency evacuation would become an emergency in its own right due to the number of people in the three schools.

An effort to extend N.E. 135th Street as a second entrance was shut down by the North Miami City Council last fall.

When all three institutions release at the same time, drivers and their passengers are forced to sit through the slowly moving convoy of vehicles.

Parents also complain about the design of the medians and the University’s speeding drivers.

Alec Evedon, a senior at Alonzo Mourning who takes the city bus home with his twin brother, said school buses severely restrict traffic. Rather than being held back by the situation, he walks to a city bus stop down the road and across a busy intersection to avoid waiting on a bus in traffic.

“It takes 15 minutes just to get to the traffic light at the end of the street on a bus,” said Evedon. “I walk faster than the bus. I always beat it.”

Drivers from Alonzo Mourning, the closest school to Biscayne Boulevard, hold up drivers from the University, who in turn make it difficult for David Lawrence Jr. parents to even exit their own parking lot.

Graham compared the delay to movie theater lines.

“People can’t get in because people can’t get out,” she said.

Senior Jared Piniero of Alonzo Mourning said that even though his school has the shortest wait time of all three, the situation is still aggravating.

“I don’t know why there is only one way out for so many people,” he said.

Osborn has spoken with several parents and has also complained to the county, although nothing further has been discussed. He said that the school considers it a “daily challenge.”

Chauffeurs of the Golden Panther Express, the shuttle commuting from Modesto Maidique Campus and BBC, must also deal with the crowded nuisances during school zone hours after 1 p.m.

“The only problem I have is the kids from the elementary schools are not using the crosswalks.” GPE chauffeur William Anderson said. “They cut diagonally through traffic instead of using the crosswalks and it adds to the traffic. There needs to be an officer or a school monitor there.”

The traffic congestion has caused David Lawrence Jr. and Alonzo Mourning to use their own faculty and staff to control the congestion.

Osborn and other staff at Lawrence sometimes step outside of their offices and direct traffic. They stop traffic from FIU and enable their school’s parents to enter onto the main road.

Sally Alayon, principal of Alonzo Mourning High, has the school police officer and school security to assist at the end of the day.

Uquillas, one of the frustrated Lawrence parents, said the faculty members’ efforts sometimes make the situation worse, but Graham said she thinks the schools’ presence has been effective in portioning out the traffic and that their efforts are successful on the days that they assist.

She didn’t say the same about the police.

“They are not out there as often as I think they should be,” she said.

Lt. Richard Torres of the FIU police said the department offered its assistance at the beginning of the school year when it believed the schools need it most, and only because of their proximity to the college campus.

He said the department does not continue to control traffic because it was not its responsibility, but rather the responsibility of the Miami-Dade County School district.

Unfortunately, Osborn said, parents do not follow common courtesy rules and that he has called the police to intervene on a few occasions.

“We ask [the parents] to practice the core values of patience and understanding,” he said.

Additional reporting by Nadra Mabrouk.

This story was researched and written for JOU 3300 Advanced News Writing taught by Dr. Fred Blevens in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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