New year welcomes students… and more traffic

Surge before and after school as Monte Vista returns

Photo of traffic lined up outside school

Oliver Brandeis

Monte Vista High School students, parents, and staff have experienced an increase in commute traffic, especially on odd block days, which was changed for the 2021-22 school year.

Monte Vista High School has seen a different type of stampede on campus — one to beat traffic. 

The start of the 2021-2022 school year experienced a surge of traffic both in the morning and after school. This increase in traffic was caused by Monte Vista’s return from hybrid learning and the adoption of an odd-even alternating block schedule, according to transportation experts.

“I’ve definitely been late a few times,” bus rider and junior Ella Dinh said. “I’ll go to my first-period class, yoga, and I’ll [explain that] my bus was late again. It’s a pretty normal thing.” 

Lengthened commute times have made it seem like a herculean task to get to school on time. Students like Dinh receive tardies and teachers are robbed of invaluable class time. 

“It’s been very frustrating,” Speech and Debate teacher David Matley said. “Too often we’ve had to wait to get started [and] on days we couldn’t wait, students missed important information.”

The paramount problem and perhaps the greatest solution lies in the schedule change, say those familiar with the issue.  With this year’s block schedule, Tuesdays and Thursdays now have periods A, 2, 4, and 6, while Wednesdays and Fridays incorporate periods 1, 3, and 5.

On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, students who take an A period or have opted out of a 6th period are able to arrive or leave earlier, respectively. This applies to a significant portion of the student body .On those days, these staggered schedules alleviate a large amount of traffic coming from school grounds. 

But on Wednesday and Friday block days, the vast majority of students start and end school concurrently. The sheer number of students entering and leaving the school at one time leads to long delays.

“You can see the impact of that when there’s not a staggered schedule” on Wednesday and Friday block days,  Danville’s Transportation Manager Andrew Dillard said. “It’s hard [not] to miss.” 

Monte Vista Counseling Secretary Chris Watson suggested that the gridlock could be partly fixed with more students carpooling. 

Traffic “is at a high level this year, more than in the past,” Watson said. “It’s just a matter of coordinating, maybe setting up carpools.”                

Dillard noted that this lack of carpooling could be an impact of the lingering COVID-19 pandemic. 

“With the spread of COVID-19, people don’t want to be in such close quarters with other students,” Dillard said. “When fewer students are able to carpool that has a big impact. That [carpooling] is a big contributor to having less traffic on our roads.”

New parents may have also added to the problem because many of them are uninformed about the various drop-off locations around the campus, Watson said. 

“We have not only one year of new parents dropping off and picking up at a high school, but two, and they’re just not aware [of these areas],” she said. 

Moreover, when Monte Vista traffic collides with blockage from nearby schools, it exacerbates the issue.      

A 7-minute drive away and adjacent to Monte Vista is The Athenian School. Depending on student elective choices, Athenian students are released from school at either 2:40 p.m. or 3:35 p.m. 

Additionally, dismissals for the neighboring school of Los Cerros Middle School and Monte Vista are synchronized, both ending at 3 p.m. Monte Vista’s schedule is also intertwined with Vista Grande Elementary School, whose end time is 3:15 p.m., increasing traffic even more.

A decline in carpooling, schedule coordination between nearby schools, and a lack of awareness about alternate pickup and drop off locations have made this a unique and multifaceted traffic predicament. 

But there could be a headlight at the end of the tunnel. The adoption of staggered schedules, new areas for school transportation, and other solutions suggested by school and transportation administration could make MVHS traffic just a bit more bearable.   

But until then, “We always have traffic congestion throughout our elementary, middle [and high] schools in SRVUSD,” Dillard said. “That’s just the nature of the beast.”

This article was written originally for The Stampede, the student newspaper of Monte Vista High School in Danville.