As summer slips away and the school year approaches, final preparations are underway to christen the new Clarke County High School with its first class of students. However, as the first day nears, the reality of new traffic patterns is manifesting itself in the adjoining neighborhood and residents are voicing concerns.
The decision to put the main school entrance on Mosby Blvd was a contentious one from the outset. In the early stages of planning the new school, the Clarke County School Board shifted the entrance from Main Street to the proposed extension of Mosby as a cost-saving measure. By situating the entrance in the neighborhood the school system would be able to leverage VDOT funds slated for the Mosby extension to eliminate a costly entrance on Main Street. The move was approved despite strong opposition from the residents of Battlefield Estates. The decision meant that students, faculty, and the general public could only access the new school via Mosby Blvd. A smaller entrance on Main Street was retained in the design for bus traffic.
However, the timing of the road work is creating what some residents fear will be a dangerous situation.
As work continues around the school, the extension of Mosby remains unfinished and will not be open in time for the beginning of the school year. According to Murphy, the round-a-bout is scheduled to be functional (but not finished) by the first day of class, but the Mosby extension through the school campus will not be completed for some time. Consequently the initial volume of traffic through Battlefield Estates will be even higher than what has been anticipated because it will be the only way to access the main entrance.
Sharon Strickland, President of the Battlefield Estates Civic Association (BECA) has heard concerns from many neighbors in the community. She has already seen a spike in traffic as activities begin at the new facility, but is concerned that drivers are speeding through the neighborhood that has a posted speed limit of 25 miles per hour. “Teens are famous for speeding and I hope their parents truly will caution them to follow the speed signage.”
BECA is also pressuring town and county officials to support the installation of four way stop signs in the neighborhood as an added measure of traffic calming.
Superintendent Mike Murphy has responded to the concerns and issued a letter to the school board and public officials stating, “We continue to be proactive regarding the opening of the new Clarke County High School and are working on a variety of items, both large and small, to ensure a smooth opening as it relates to ingress and egress to and from our beautiful new school.”
The list of measures includes:
- Persistent reminders to students and staff to be respectful of neighbors and neighborhoods as they access the school
- An AlertNow message is scheduled this week for all families; safe driving as well as the issue of speeding in and around school zones will be addressed
- Bus drivers have been put on high alert regarding speed limits and will be making practice runs in the bus loop before school.
- Four additional solar power flashing school signs will be placed in close proximity to the new school
- Superintendent Murphy has also recommend to the Town Council that the entire length of Mosby (from Food Lion to the round-a-bout) become “Special Traffic Enforcement Zone.” This would allow the Berryville Police to double the fine for speeding in the school zone.
The Berryville Police will be collecting traffic data on Mosby Blvd, this week and again after school starts. They have also put a mobile radar flashing sign in place to help make drivers aware of their speed.
Superintendent Murphy said, “Bottom line is that we are working on all we can work on at the present time. Human behavior is hard to change and law enforcement support has been and will continue to critical to this issue.”