LEWISTON — Picking up McMahon Elementary School students during the month of February was messy and congested.

Some people worried that students were at risk of being struck by a vehicle because they were hard to see in the snowbanks and traffic. But after watching a video filmed by Sun Journal photographer Russ Dillingham, school and city officials decided to make some immediate changes.

On Monday, Superintendent Bill Webster said changes have been made to improve safety — and more changes are in the works.

Last week, snowbanks and cars parked on both sides of the North Temple Street at dismissal time made the street one lane — and a tight squeeze for buses to get through, Lewiston School Department Transportation Director Butch Pratt SAID.

It also made it hard to see a student walking or running toward a parent’s car.

After hearing from a bus driver who worried students were at risk of being hit by a vehicle, Dillingham shot a video of the after-school dismissal on Feb. 24 — which illustrates traffic congestion, honking horns and students walking in between moving vehicles.

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The video was shared with Webster, who forwarded it to other school and city officials.

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” Webster said. “The city went right out that night and cleared snowbanks right away.”

When Lewiston Public Works removed the snowbanks, it created more room for parking and safer conditions.

McMahon Principal Thomas Hood said the big issue was visibility — people just couldn’t see the students.

The changes are creating a more orderly pickup, Webster said. “The challenge is, there’s a lot of kids at that school (but) the front entrance hasn’t changed. We are looking at other changes — the order of dismissal.”

Two years ago, a new wing was added to the school. More students were added to fill the wing, pushing enrollment from about 566 to more than 668, Hood said.

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Having some buses come to the school from Old Greene Road adds five minutes to bus routes, Pratt said, but does relieve some congestion.

“So many parents want to drive their kids to school,” Pratt said. “There’s more parental traffic.” Public Works “did a good job cleaning it out.” 

Parents agree the situation is “a lot better.”

“It was terrible,” parent Amy Burleigh said. “People were honking their horns, tried to park on both sides of the street as if there was no snow. People couldn’t get through.”

But one big issue remains, according to Burleigh and fellow parent Kala Lynch. Congestion remains in a circle in front of the school, where parents are supposed to park only on the outside.

But parents park on the inner circle, too, creating little room and a safety problem, parents said.

“It’s a hazard because when parents drop off or pick up students in the inner circle, students then have to cross over in traffic,” Hood said.

Parents ignore the “no parking” signs and letters sent home which advise them of the parking rules, Hood said. They even ignore the staff, who alert them that they can’t park there, he added.

Part of the problem, he admitted, is that there’s just not enough parking. The school is working on a plan to move where students are picked up, Hood said.


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