Although the school day is over, one student pulls out a book or homework as soon as she gets into her mom’s car.
St. Rose of Lima Catholic School sixth-grader Lilija Vinters knows that it can take 10 to 15 minutes, or more, to get out of the parking lot, so she tries to make the best use of her time by getting ahead on homework, she said.
Her school’s entrance is off of Jefferson Street, west of U.S. 31, between King Arthur Drive and the intersection of Methodist Drive and Drake Road.
With no traffic signal at the intersection, parents leaving the Franklin school are left to wait for traffic to stop whizzing by on Jefferson Street before they can get out of the parking lot.
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But Vinters, 12, is sick of waiting after school is out.
“I really just wanted to get home,” Vinters said. “I have sports that I have to get to and dance, and I would like to be able to go home and see my dog.”
In March, Vinters created a petition asking for a stoplight at her school or for police officers to direct traffic on Jefferson Street during the school’s drop-off and pickup times. So far, 25 students and parents from St. Rose of Lima have signed the petition. Vinters hopes to get a few more signatures before presenting it to Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness, she said.
Her proposal is for a stoplight in front of the school, which would only have to be used between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. and from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. The rest of the day, the light can flash, Vinters wrote in her petition.
St. Rose of Lima has not used a police officer or crossing guard to assist in the traffic congestion in the past and is not looking into hiring one now, Principal Rebecca Floyd said. While the traffic build up is a pain for parents and students, it is not a significant enough of a wait time for the school to hire an off-duty officer, she said.
Usually the traffic is so steady that it takes a while to find a break in the congestion for a car to turn out of the school’s entrance, Vinters said.
“One day, a few months ago, there were literally no cars (getting out),” Vinters said. “It was backed up.”
The traffic was even worse in the last year, with construction on Jefferson Street, Floyd said.
In order to have a police officer direct traffic or a traffic light installed, Franklin’s engineering department or police department would have to get involved, city officials said.
Before a new traffic signal could be installed at the intersection, the Franklin Board of Works would have to approve and perform a traffic study to see if the signal was needed, city engineer Travis Underhill said. The traffic study would have to be done during the school year, Underhill said.
If the study showed that a signal should be installed, then the city would have to approve adding it.
School officials could also hire an off-duty officer to direct traffic at the intersection for about a half-hour before and after school, Franklin Police Chief Tim O’Sullivan said.
If an intersection has had a significant number of accidents or concerns from residents, officers can be assigned to patrol the area, O’Sullivan said. But schools typically hire an off-duty officer in order to have consistency in who directs traffic each day. For example, churches will hire off-duty officers to direct traffic after services end, he said.
In the past, police officers used to be stationed at Franklin’s middle school and high school during dismissal, but the police presence did not make a change in how traffic moved in and out of the parking lots, O’Sullivan said. So that practice was ended, he said.