New high school parking lot should ease bus congestion

by Melissa Martin

April 27 school board meeting

Brecksville-Broadview Heights Schools Superintendent Joelle Magyar announced plans to construct a new parking lot at the high school campus this summer to align school starting times at the middle school and high school.

Magyar said in light of recent school bus driver shortages, the district has spent the past few months revising its student transportation plan. The goal, she said, is to consolidate routes for the middle school and high school to ensure the district maintains its policy of providing transportation to all students.

Though the district was affected less by bus driver shortages than other area districts, Magyar told members of the school board earlier this year that the district wanted to be proactive instead of reactive.

“To prepare for this nuance, several bus routes had to be combined [this school year], thereby lengthening transportation times for several groups of students…and we don’t see an end in sight in the near future,” she said.

The high school begins classes at 7:35 a.m., and the middle school begins its day at 8:10 a.m. Starting in the fall, Magyar said both schools will share a common start time, and students from both schools will share bus rides.

“We have involved both safety forces in planning the new transportation plan and in developing a new plan for the campus [during drop off and pickup times],” she said

The district initially planned to have buses line up between the schools after dismissal, but Magyar said the drivers felt buses would be parked too close together. She said the district now plans to spread out the buses in the high school’s junior parking lot, however, the school will lose 105 spaces allocated to the junior class.

“We did not want to have to limit parking passes next year,” she said. “We wanted to be able to provide the same opportunities [to drive to school] for our juniors and seniors that we have in the past.”

To replace those spots, Magyar said the district will construct a new parking lot on the east side of the football stadium where the practice field is located.

“This is the most cost-effective site due to its topography,” she said. Students will enter and exit the building through the high school auditorium to access the lot starting next year. “An additional benefit is that this will provide us with more parking during football games and other events at the stadium,” Magyar said.

In accordance with the new plan, Magyar said bus and car traffic will be separated and signage will be installed this summer instructing drivers where to go.

Magyar said the administration has spoken with the high school athletic director and football coaches informing them that the parking lot will not take up the entire practice field. However, the field located above the middle school will be utilized as a practice field, as well as the existing youth football field.

Magyar said the district plans to move the youth football field to Hilton Elementary School.

“It sounds like we have enough field options, it just might be somewhat of a chess match to get everyone where they need to be and settle in,” school board President Mark Dosen said.

The district has elected to sell the Highland and Chippewa properties once the elementary schools are consolidated in a new building this summer, but Dosen said the district has yet to decide what to do with the Hilton Elementary site.

“We’ve talked about retaining it, especially since the land is part of our main campus, and it makes sense to hold onto it,” he said. “We still have an old building on there to decide what to do with.”

The district’s original plan called for razing the old elementary buildings. However, the district has since given control over the Central school site to Brecksville and entered into an agreement with the city to market the Highland and Chippewa properties to developers.

“In the end, if the board decides to take Hilton down, it would create additional green space,” Dosen said. “Right now, we have a lot of fields throughout our district, and those options may continue to grow over time.”

Magyar said the district plans to contract Shook Construction, the contractor for the elementary school project, to have the parking lot project completed by fall. She said the district will use a portion of the bond money left over from the elementary school project to construct the lot.

The cost estimate is still being prepared by the contractor, Magyar said.

“Because the contractor is already in place, it buys us speed and allows us to get this project going quickly,” she added.

Other permanent improvement projects the district has undertaken with the bond money include replacing the high school roof, resurfacing the high school track, replacing tennis courts and installing the ADA parking lot at the baseball and softball fields, all of which will be completed by the end of summer.

“It’s good to see a lot of progress being made throughout the district and hopefully that continues,” Dosen said. ∞