Charlottetown schools looking to curb traffic issues after increased enrolment

There's new vitality at Birchwood Intermediate School in Charlottetown as a result of hundreds of additional students this year. But there's a price too: extra cars and congestion in the downtown neighbourhood.

'It's narrow streets and there is too much traffic and too much congestion'

Buses, parents and students all add to the increased bustle around Birchwood School during drop off and pick up times. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

The streets surrounding Birchwood Intermediate School in an older downtown Charlottetown neighbourhood are often clogged with traffic as students come and go.

"It's packed every morning and every afternoon, but especially in the afternoon," said parent Tracey Wahler. 

"It's actually dangerous for the kids walking back and forth."

The school board said a major factor that added to the number of vehicles in the area is the number of students enrolled.

The school now has 471 students — an increase of 200 this year — following last year's rezoning and redistribution of students in various schools around the province.

Prepared for the influx

​"We knew it would be an issue and we took action last summer to get ready," said John Cummings, director of corporate services for the Public Schools Branch.

New signs were installed before the start of the school year in anticipation of the increased enrolment. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

The school expanded its parking lot by 10 spaces last summer to get ready for the influx of students. New signs and painted road lines were added to try to avoid traffic snarls. Parents were briefed on best practices for drop-off and pick-up.

"It's true, there are growing pains," Cummings said. "We continue to work to try to tweak our system to make it as functional as we possibly can make it."

Officials have also staggered the arrival times of schools buses.

Safety is a top priority

The board is also talking to city police about crosswalks at all schools and how to improve them.

John Cummings, director of corporate services department with the Public Schools Branch, said they are working with any Island schools that may be having traffic concerns. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

"We continue to work with Birchwood and all our schools to try and make our schools as safe as possible," Cummings said. 

"We're always looking at how things can be improved."

West Kent Elementary is also dealing with similar traffic issues. Parents have formed a school safety committee and are working with the city to address traffic and other safety issues. The committee met for the first time a couple of weeks ago.

School officials said they will do what they can to ease traffic congestion at all schools.

Working with Island schools

"The first point of contact would be the school," Cummings said. "They do a good job of working with students on a day-to-day basis and dealing with traffic in the area."

Crosswalk safety is crucial as the students come to and from the school grounds. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Traffic is part of life in a busy city, but if anyone knows how to ease the crunch every morning and afternoon at Birchwood, school officials said they're willing to listen.

The Public Schools Branch has not had any direct complaints about traffic following the arrival of all the new students, Cummings said.

Parents picking up their children are keenly of aware of the traffic situation.

"I don't think there is an easy solution because of the way it is positioned," Wahler said. "It's downtown. It's narrow streets and there is too much traffic and too much congestion."

More P.E.I. News

With files from John Robertson

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