The twice-daily ritual of picking up and dropping off children at Prince Rupert schools has become alarmingly dangerous and staff who try to head off the danger are being abused.
“I’m really worried that we’re going to have an accident … We have near misses,” Sandra Jones, SD52 superintendent said.
“We have yellow lines, ‘no parking’ signs and bus zones, all of which are consistently being parked in,” said Jones.
She said parents and guardians are continuing to park in these zones or in endangering street locations but when they are asked to relocate their vehicle, they are verbally abusing school officials or those making the request.
The problem has been ongoing for years and school officials don’t want to have to wait for a severe accident to happen before action is taken to reduce the parking infractions.
Despite the very blatantly marked areas of unacceptable parking zones, Jones said there’s a whole host of reasons why parents try to park as close to their child’s school as possible — but it’s causing more harm than good.
“It seems when the weather gets bad, it’s even worse. But back in the day, kids used to walk to school and for whatever reason, parents are afraid or they’re worried or it’s dark. I mean there’s all kinds of compelling reasons that parents feel they must drop them off really close to the school,” said Jones.
Conrad School interim principal Sheila Wells added that the school zones weren’t fundamentally designed to handle traffic that they receive now.
“When these schools were originally built, there wasn’t the traffic in town and it wasn’t an issue … We’ve talked to parents, we’ve talked to staff, we’ve put it in the newsletter constantly and some parents can be quite rude, actually … Last week, our sign was hit by a [speeding] vehicle, my truck was hit by a vehicle, so I’m no longer parking on the road. As administrators, it’s a constant frustration,” Wells said, also saying that the school reminds kids of the issue.
“Parents stop in the middle of the road and kids hop out of the vehicle and they run across the road. Every school has had close calls,” she added.
Jones said that there isn’t one or two schools in particular that are worse than others, but are all equally in a sad state of affairs in terms of illegal parking. A permanent solution is yet to be found, but until then, the school district has tried a number of methods to offset illegal parking, including reminding the students.
“Over the years, we’ve had the RCMP come and do drive-bys to encourage people [to park where they should], we often have principals often asking parents, ‘Please don’t park here. This is a bus zone’ or ‘If you wouldn’t mind moving your car’, to be a gentle presence. So that’s some of the work we’ve done,” said Jones.
“I know when I was principal and I went out and asked people to [move their car], I was often abused and I know my principals are on the receiving end of some very unpleasant responses when they try and ask people to please be aware [of where they are].”
Another way parents could ensure their kids’ safety in getting to and from school is by parking further away and walking with them to their car or school, said Jones.
The City of Prince Rupert is taking action through its bylaw enforcement department.
“Though our current bylaw officer has not received any formal complaints in the past year regarding parking and stopping in school zones, he has taken a proactive approach in identifying issues surrounding Annunciation School and the Fulton Street hill. In the coming weeks, the City of Prince Rupert will begin to increase bylaw enforcement in this area, and implement signage on Fulton Street to deter parents from blocking bus and crosswalk traffic. These steps are being taken not to punish violators, but to promote safe and efficient pick-up and drop-off practices surrounding our City’s schools,” said Veronika Stewart, city communications manager.