Parents are lobbying Clayton leaders to green light road changes at a congested intersection that serves two side-by-side schools.
Every weekday, parents use a pattern of small streets to drop off and pick up kids from the adjacent Riverwood Elementary and Riverwood Middle schools off of Pritchard Road.
While the school suggests parents use a roundabout, looping pattern to access the campuses, that doesn’t always happen. Some parents make a frowned-upon but legal left turn into the schools, which critics say endangers other cars.
Some parents say the situation gets worse when drivers speed through crosswalks, cut in the carpool line and cuss and scream at each other. Diana Tingle, who has a son at the middle school and a granddaughter at the elementary, was so fed up with the school traffic that she asked the Clayton Town Council to help make a change.
At the Town Council’s Oct. 20 meeting, Tingle asked for an official “No-Left-Turn” sign at the intersection of Athletic Club Boulevard and Collinsworth Drive, the street that runs between the two schools. She said the left-turn ban would allow police officers to make drivers behave.
What amounts to a yard sign currently directs parents to take the roundabout pattern and not turn left.
“They still blatantly turn left; they don’t care,” Tingle said. “I’ve actually pointed to the sign and people have flipped me off.”
The town owns the streets that parents use to reach the schools. After hearing Tingle’s request, Town Manager Steve Biggs said Clayton will hire a traffic engineer to study the area around the schools. That will cost the town $4,000 to $5,000, he said.
Tingle and other parents say traffic is worse in the morning but is also hectic when students are released from school.
Both schools have teachers that help with the carpool lines on campus. However, most of the traffic concerns cited by parents technically occur just off of school property.
Clayton Police Chief R.W. Bridges said his department has responded to concerns from Riverwood parents, as much as manpower will allow. He said officers have worked radar at the schools and monitored the carpool lines.
“We’ve been responsive to them, but when we go out, we are not seeing a lot of actionable violations,” Bridges said. “We are not seeing a situation where kids are necessarily in danger.”
All Johnston County schools have access to school resource officers, who sometimes help direct traffic at schools. The SRO for the Riverwood schools is based at Clayton High School on a day-to- day basis.
Kristen Sutherland said she and her family moved to the Riverwood community about five years ago from Holly Springs. She said she was used to a Holly Springs SRO directing traffic every day and was shocked to learn how people drove around Riverwood.
“I think more needs to be done to lessen the risks to our kids,” Sutherland said in an email. “I wish that the middle school and elementary school could get together to design a better system for pick up.”
Chris Walker, whose son just started at the middle school, said she’s happy the town is going to study the traffic pattern.
“Something has to be done,” Walker said. “I don’t know what the answer is, but when the engineer gets out here, we can figure it out.”