Jammed traffic at Chiefland school sparks concern

Chiefland resident Michael Dockery lives up the street from Chiefland Elementary School (CES) and says he is afraid an accident will happen if backed up traffic isn’t dealt with.

Dockery, who heads up the Chiefland Neighborhood Task Force, took his concerns to the Levy County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday night and explained the problem.

“Traffic is backed up all the way from the school to the post office,” Dockery told the board. “People ready to pick up kids, they don’t have anywhere to park.”

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CES is located at the corner of NW Fourth Avenue and County Road 341, so staff for the city of Chiefland sent Dockery to the BOCC to seek a solution.

CR 341 is a two-lane road with no shoulder to park on the north side and just a short turn lane leading into the school parking lot.

There are “No Parking” signs lining the street which leaves drivers with nowhere to pull over when they drop off or pick up students.

Dockery describes the scene as a dangerous gridlock situation.

“It’s only a matter of time before they have an accident,” he said.

According to Levy County Coordinator Wilbur Dean, the county road department has met with school officials and they are trying to come up with a way to make things safer.

“We could move the fence back and put a turn off on CR 341,” he said. “And that way they could follow that fence without parking on the right of way.”

Dean said the Levy County School Board is looking into the situation and he is waiting on a call back from the school district, “To see if we can assist.”

Levy County Schools Superintendent Chris Cowart said the school district has been observing the situation and he attributes the problem to COVID-19 because more parents are driving kids to school and adding more cars to the equation.

“It accelerated with COVID,” he said. “We have capacity and can put some more kids on buses.”

One option to ease the flow of cars would involve taking out the recess area and trees,” which Cowart said would not be a good move.

“The school was built for walk ups and bus riders.”

He said he drove to the school last week to observe and “turned in 10 minutes after school and was able to pull in and park.”

The district carried out a daily car count which revealed a range of 108 to 130 cars that took an average of 24 to 28 minutes for the line to disburse.

The issue is nationwide, Cowart said. “More people are picking up kids and not using all of the bus capacity due to COVID.”

Parents say the problem could be solved if they were allowed to park and walk up to the school to pick up students. The practice was ended because of COVID-19 safety measures.

Before the pandemic, about half of the parents walked up but now all pick ups happen by pulling up in a vehicle which increases the line and wait time, they said.


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