I am a school bus driver for Aiken County Public School District. This is a true and scary story every day.
Go stand on the corner of McKenzie Street and Crestlyn Drive in North Augusta, any weekday from 7:25-7:45 a.m. and 2:55-3:20 p.m. This is a narrow intersection. Parents randomly drop off students on the curb on either side of the street at the end of the school’s fence line in an attempt to avoid the “wait” and the “traffic” from the designated drop off line, safety be damned. Students escape from either side of the ill-parked vehicles while traffic continues moving. Due to the outdated configuration of the school’s traffic pattern, several buses must make a U-Turn into the bus lane off Crestlyn. It’s the same in the afternoon, just reversed.
Parents don’t care. They park in front of the "NO PARKING" sign. They will not budge if you tell them they’re blocking traffic.
Here’s the conundrum. The school is overdue for an overhaul. Mrs. Kimbra Meek, North Augusta Middle School's principal, explained that the there’s little that can be done to resolve the matter. ACPSD owns the property inside the fence line and the City of North Augusta owns the property outside the fence. Including the sidewalk, there’s less than 12-feet between the fence and the street and no sidewalk across the street.
Both parties claim impotency in the matter. They pass the buck back and forth. The district can’t do anything outside of the fence. They won’t upgrade NAMS’ student drop off process. They are building the new Highland Springs Middle School though. That should help, right?
North Augusta Public Safety's “Officer Melanie” has expressed her helplessness in the matter. The officers assigned to the school detail are stretched between several different schools. When an actual emergency arises, traffic detail takes a back seat. When the police attempt to monitor the area or write citations, parents know how to duck-and-dodge for a few days. They begin the scenario all over after a few days.
Sadly, this isn’t a new issue. I’ve driven for four years. This was going on way before I started.
Will someone make a proactive move to resolve this issue? Of course not, not until one of our children is forced to pay with their life due to our apathetic inaction.
I’ve spoken Councilwoman Pat Carpenter and with Lt. Sadler of NAPSD. Mrs. Meek and I stood at the end of the driveway just days ago accessing viable options. The only option: ACPSD and the City of North Augusta, please to come together forthwith and fix this problem before it’s too late.