New elementary school means new transportation arrangements

Over the Ponoka Elementary School’s spring break, March 28 to April 6, the operations of the school will be transferred

A map illustration depicting transportation zone uses that will come into effect when the Ponoka Elementary School moves into the former Diamond Willow Middle School building at the end of the month.

A map illustration depicting transportation zone uses that will come into effect when the Ponoka Elementary School moves into the former Diamond Willow Middle School building at the end of the month.

Over the Ponoka Elementary School’s spring break, March 28 to April 6, the operations of the school will be transferred into the former Diamond Willow Middle School building and this leads to a new arrangement for student pickup and drop off as well as staff parking.

“Our intent is to ensure we provide an efficient plan for the safety of our students and staff and concurrently utilize our new site in the most efficient manner possible,” said superintendent Larry Jacobs, in a press release dated Feb. 25.

The Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) division, in conjunction with the Town of Ponoka and the RCMP, is looking to implement five major adjustments to the school’s transportation system.

Buses will continue to use the parking lot west of the Brick Building. The lot can be accessed by Highway 2A so buses will not impede traffic flow on 48 Avenue. Keeping 48 Avenue uncongested was a focus of the division as well as the RCMP.

This is mainly for safety reasons, as 48 Avenue has three crosswalks students can use and the division appeals to drivers in the area to make sure to follow proper rules of the road.

Students from the buses will have access to the new Ponoka Elementary School building via a path running south from the parking lot to the school.

“Specialized bussing for some of our students will be to a restricted area directly in front of the school. This area will be properly signed to that it does not interfere with other traffic considerations,” said Jacobs in the press release.

In order to keep the public and parents informed on the new transportation practices, the division is going to use signs to relay the needs of WCPS, the town and the RCMP.

Along 48 Avenue, signs will advertise student drop off and pickup times. From 8 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 4 p.m. the street will be for pickup and drop off only, no parking allowed.

Any vehicles parked in the area during those times will be subject to ticketing by the RCMP.

However, during other times of the day, the area will be used as visitor parking for the school.

Signs will also be placed in front of the new school, west of the gym entrance, designating a special needs or handicapped drop off area. Vehicles will need an access permit to allow them to park for an appropriate amount of time.

The area directly in front of the school, which used to be a parking lot when the building was a middle school, has been converted solely into an emergency lane. It is not to be used for student pickup and drop off and non-approved vehicles in the emergency lane may be ticketed.

“Other signage will be placed on the cement meridian at 48 Avenue that disallows left lane turns into and out of the area directly in front of the school. This has been designed to ensure student and staff safety and promote efficient traffic patterns during the day,” said Jacobs in the press release.

The third point the division wants to make to the public is that pickup and drop off areas are still available along 54 Street.

“There’s always been tremendous need by the parents to be close to the building to drop off children,” said Jacobs in an interview with Ponoka News.

Staff parking lots will be located to the west of the new building and along the east side of the Pink Building. Jacobs says managing the approximately 50 vehicles needing a place to park was one of the biggest challenges of the planning. “We have to put quite a lot of staff into the building,” he said in an interview with Ponoka News.

For the future some consideration has been given to developing a parking lot on the east side of the new building. This would give room to teachers’ cars and some guest parking. Jacobs feels that may be a year down the road before the division has a concrete plan.

The future use of the Pink Building may also affect how the school can use 54 Street. Jacobs says the school division’s first goal is to have community groups use it. “When we move out of a building like that, the board wants it not to be part of our maintenance plan,” said Jacobs.