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Opinion

On behalf of the board of education, a thorough and comprehensive traffic analysis was completed regarding the short-term and long-term traffic implications of the soon-to-begin bond-authorized construction at Weber and Schreiber. In that the last traffic study was completed in 1996, as a new superintendent I felt it vitally important to the entire community to address this difficult issue. Safety is priority one in the report, and fairness to all is priority two. More than 20 meetings, including two open community forums, faculty and administrative committee outputs, board of education meetings and walkthroughs, and additional community mail and e-mails were part of the process. This culminated on Dec. 4, 2002 when a draft of the proposed plan was shared with the principals and HSA/PTA presidents for their input. I wish to publicly thank and commend them for their leadership. Likewise, I wish to publicly thank four organizations in specific for their time and efforts, the board of education, the Port Washington Teachers Association, the Port Washington Police District and the Port Washington Fire Department. All were extremely valuable in carefully and prudently providing data and input.

As I have stated throughout, there is no "magic" solution. All agree that Campus Drive, St. John's Place and Bogart Avenue were not designed to handle the traffic flow of the 21st century. Built in the early and mid 1900s, when one car per family was a luxury or the norm, the modern expansion up to 2,500 - 3,000 students with two, three or four cars now the norm per family, just never was even considered.

Therefore, let me be very clear that the plan I am offering, which is really our joint plan, is the only realistic plan in terms of maximizing efficiency while maximizing safety and fairness as well. It calls for sacrifices by all, a significant amount of redeployment of district security and Port Washington Police personnel, and will involve some changes of habits in some cases. In that regard, please note the following:

* Please note that the short-term strategic plan is a working plan. In essence, it is a starting point, not a finished product. Consistent with Commissioner of Education's Regulation 8 NYCRR 155, it is developed to diffuse and reduce traffic and increase safety where possible. Any further suggestions from the community should be directed to the District Health and Safety Committee, c/o Mary Callahan, board secretary. Her e-mail address is mcallahan@portnet.k12.ny.us.

Rationale - The neighborhoods on and around St. John's Place and Bogart Avenue, as well as Campus Drive, need to be protected. This plan will immediately alleviate and/or reduce traffic in all three areas while increasing the monitoring of safety especially in the neighborhoods around Schreiber and Weber.

Effective immediately, please note the following:

1. All parents are requested to have students ride buses or walk whenever possible. This will reduce the number of cars in all three access areas dramatically. This is voluntary, will conserve energy, reduce dependency on imported oil, reduce gas emissions in the Port Washington air, reduce traffic congestion and increase safety on Campus Drive, Port Boulevard, St. John's Place (and surrounding streets) and Bogart Avenue (and surrounding streets).

2. If students miss the bus, or parents need to drive students (It is strongly requested that carpools of at least three students are driven), all parental drop-offs and pick-ups are urged to occur no later than 7:30 a.m. or after 3:30 p.m. Breakfast will be provided at both Schreiber and Weber. For single parent or dual working parent families, this will be especially beneficial. Students should not be rushed in the morning, should have time for a nutritious breakfast, a chance to organize efficiently, and a chance to review or socialize in the 30 minutes prior to class. Only faculty, staff, walkers, handicapped or temporarily injured students, emergency vehicles and buses will be permitted between 7:30 and 8 a.m., or between 3 and 3:30 p.m., at any of the streets of ingress and egress on a voluntary basis. Please cooperate, as residents, including those with children waiting for buses and/or walking, need their safety preserved as well.

3. Additional and/or relocated security personnel will be placed at the junction of St. John's Place and school property, at the junction of Bogart Avenue and school property, and at the junction of Old Hills Lane and school property. An additional security guard will also be placed in the Monfort student parking lot.

4. We are requesting that crossing guards be provided at all drop-off and high intersections. While this is a police and not a school matter, anyone interested in serving as a crossing guard should contact the police. The police have been very cooperative and need applicants, and the commissioners made this appeal at our most recent community forum.

5. At least two of the four new police officers be assigned to neighborhood patrols (one on St. John's Place and the surrounding area and one on Bogart Avenue and the surrounding area). No Parking signs are to be observed by all drivers, especially regarding No Parking on the south side of Bogart Avenue, and restricted times for parking should be observed on St. John's Place and surrounding streets as well. Again, thank you to the Port Washington police for their offers in this regard.

6. The lower steps in the Monfort student lot on school property will be replaced. Students have asked for this since the 1980s, and as a new superintendent, I would like this done immediately.

7. Likewise, students are asked to carpool and only use the Monfort student lot on school property. This will benefit the environment and increase safety in the neighborhoods.

8. Explore alternative areas to increase temporary parking for staff. The present plan, which has been provided to us based upon last spring's input, leaves us approximately 50 spaces short.

9. Parents who wish to drop-off or pick-up students on Vanderventer Avenue may choose to use alternate routes to and from drop-off sites. For example, parents may choose to use South Bayles as an alternative to Port Boulevard. Crossing guards may be provided at these locations, as this would alleviate traffic congestion on Port Boulevard.

10. Parents are not permitted to enter the parking area behind Flower Hill in order to drop their children off at Weber. This area is strictly reserved for buses and staff parking. Parents must adhere to recommended drop-off areas.

In summary, if everyone works together, the environment will be better protected due to reduced exhaust fumes. Safety and traffic congestion due to staggered timing and wider dispersal will be improved both on school grounds and in surrounding neighborhoods. Bus ridership will increase, walking will increase, and our community will show the care and concern for our neighbors in the St. John's Place and Bogart Avenue areas that will alleviate the entire Port Washington community. This is a wonderful community, where helping and supporting each other exemplifies the best of the ideals upon which the United States of America was founded. I know that we can count on you to observe all 10 recommendations as outlined above.

Rationale - In addition to the short-term plan for immediate implementation, there needs to be a long-term strategic plan as well.

1. Bus routes, presently separated by middle school and high school, should be combined where possible (including a careful analysis of the grade span of riders on each bus). Either the time of ridership on routes and/or the cost of routes will be reduced where possible. In some cases, costs can be saved by reducing six-hour buses to four or five-hour buses, and elementary ridership times can be shortened as well because some buses will not have to be double or triple deployed.

2. A small section of the expanded Monfort student lot on school property should be evaluated as a possible bus depot.

3. A feasibility study by the board of education should be designated regarding the possibility of the creation of a new means of vehicular ingress/egress via the student walk path from Schreiber to the Monfort lot culminating by the post office.

4. For safety of walkers a feasibility study will be conducted to build a walkway between the tandem-parked cars across from Weber and the soccer field. Presently, students on the north side of Campus Drive have to walk part of the way on the side of the road.

5. Consideration should be provided by staggered starting and finishing times at Schreiber and Weber.

6. The police should employ a traffic engineer to evaluate all of the above and make appropriate recommendations.

In summary, the long-term strategic plan takes the short-term plan to the next level. Conceptually, it provides an opportunity to assess the impact of the short-term strategic plan, extract the real benefits of that plan, and examine and develop long-term strategies that will positively impact safety and traffic for both the school system and surrounding neighborhoods.

On behalf of a dedicated board of education, and as your new superintendent, this is the very best that I can do for students, parents, faculty and neighborhoods. It is really our plan because it combines all of the input that I received. Because we are in the midst of the wonderful holiday season, I wish to specifically address the issue of drug and alcohol abuse especially as it relates to driving. I implore our students to have good, clean habits and fun and not to use alcohol or drugs. They are the scourge of our society and they hurt you.

There is no question that the research indicates that there is a direct correlation between the earlier the age of alcohol and/or drug use and later addictions. Please choose healthier and other ways to have fun, other than alcohol or drugs. These include, but are not limited to music, dance, theater, sports, service to the less fortunate, non-alcohol/drug parties, museums, the environment, travel, restaurants, Big Brother/Sister programs, jobs, babysitting, concerts (classical and chorale), food drives, clothing drives, hospital volunteerism, etc. To our adults over the age of 21 in this terrific community, if you choose to use alcohol, please do so wisely. Remember how important being a role model is; our students look at us in everything that we do today. "Do as we do," not "Do as we say," is much more applicable to 21st century students. Finally, please do not drink and drive. Nassau County has already had tragic student injuries and deaths this year. Let us do all in our power to ensure that our great community becomes even better.

Have a safe and wonderful holiday season!

Geoffrey N. Gordon, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

Note: In addition to reducing traffic flow at St. John's Place, Bogart Avenue, Port Boulevard and Campus Drive, this plan has intended budget reduction benefits for taxpayers. For example, four buses are reduced on middle school/high school routes on a trial basis resulting in an estimated cost savings of $20,000. Part of those savings will be used to repair the lower Monfort steps. This is an example of the new budgetary initiative of maximizing financial efficiency by reallocation of existing dollars rather than adding to the taxpayer costs. I wish to publicly thank and commend board president Laura Mogul, budget committee chairperson Rob Seiden and budget committee members Julie Meyer and Bob Ferro for their excellent work in this regard.


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