How do you come to school? I usually walk with my friend, but I recently sprained my ankle so now my parents drive me everyday. After I got locked up in my mom’s car, my morning experience turned a full 180 degrees. Previously, I took a slow, peaceful stroll on the sidewalk with little care for what was happening on the road. But now that my ankle does not let me move as I please, there is nothing I can do but sit still and watch pedestrians walk past all of the cars.
This is not a story solely exclusive to me. The majority of Ridgewood High School students are going through the same ordeal of making it to school on time with traffic. A common answer I received from students and school staff is that the traffic is the worst between 7:30 AM and 7:45 AM. Christin Cha, a sophomore, noted that the traffic is highly dangerous due to the rushing cars who also are running late. She stated that the traffic makes both the walking and driving students late. Another sophomore named Jackie Meskill expressed concern that “cars don’t wait for students which is risky for those who walk”. Besides, Rahil Bhatia, a junior student, remarks that “the crosswalk takes forever to turn green so everyone jaywalks”.
The traffic makes many students take unnecessary time walking to school from nearby streets. A senior, Rhea Desai, said that her parents drop her off at Van Dien Ave to walk because of traffic. Additionally, sophomore Deen Iqbal gets dropped off at Brookside Ave and has to walk for 5 minutes, even though he is already rushing out of the house. In other words, the traffic adds another obstacle to the morning battle of arriving at school on time. When asked about his expectations of mornings without traffic, Deen replied that it would be much easier to come to school and thus make his life easier.
Several students I met have experienced the traffic’s negative impacts. Julia Rojkov, a junior, has to sprint to class when she leaves her house any later than 7:20 AM. She explains that she gets dropped off by Stevens Field, but when the weather is bad, her parents must drive into the main entrance parking lot. However, she was given a slip a few days ago saying that it is forbidden to do so. Because of this, Julia had to either come a bit earlier or jump out of the car on E Ridgewood Ave and run into the building. A sophomore, Braden Kim, was marked more than 20 times for tardiness since the start of this school year and was also late the day I interviewed him. He argued that the traffic causes tardiness and that he is not going to drive to school even after he gets driver’s license. When questioned about his plan if the traffic is fixed, he responded that he is “100% going to drive to school”.
Anya Skulskaia, a sophomore, gave an example of the traffic’s influence on academic performance. She said that her English teacher is constantly late because of the traffic and thus loses class time. Anya also comments that “the way school handles the issue is failing its tradition of excellence” and that “the rules should be more strictly enforced regarding drop offs of students”. Moreover, a senior observed that numerous juniors and seniors who drive themselves cannot find enough space to park their cars. She said that Ridgewood High School and its environs lack parking space and suggested having more sections only for students at the school parking lot. According to the best math teacher at RHS, Adam Scevola, the current system is effective but has a few issues. The school parking lot is limited to school staff and teachers who own the “RHS PARKING PERMIT” card on the car windshield. Any vehicle that does not have the permit is ticketed and towed away at the owner’s expense. If students may not park in the lot, where can they park their cars? How can students safely arrive at school on time with whatever method they have available?
A strategy that students can do to avoid violating school policy is to get ready earlier in the morning. The slip Julia received a few days ago says that “Dropping students off Monday thru Friday between 7:30 AM to 7:45 AM is prohibited in the main parking lot of Ridgewood High School”. Therefore, students are allowed to be dropped off at the school parking lot (in front of the main entrance) before 7:30 AM. However, many students complain that getting up early is extremely tough, especially that high school students do not get enough sleep.
The status quo seems to have more than enough problems. It is not hard to witness students crossing at red lights or being dropped off in the middle of the road due to the slow, long line of cars. In comparison to the main entrance which has several security guards to guide cars, the other entrances are not being monitored at all. Mr. Scevola explains that many cars turn on Beverley after dropping students off, causing commotion at the back of the building. In order to solve the over-concentrated traffic at the main entrance and manage the flow of cars every morning, it would be helpful for the school to have more drop off areas available.
Most importantly, a considerable number of students are unaware of the school drop-off and parking policy. Only a few of my friends read the email from school titled “School Drop-Off”, which was sent back in October 2021. Rhea says the pandemic may have accounted for the lack of recognition. “Many freshmen and sophomores do not know of school rules because of social distancing and quarantine. Also, students of different grades had to use different entrances which made the rules blurry,” she added. Rhea suggested that encouraging students to bike to school by having more bike racks can be an indirect solution to the traffic problem. Another senior commented that removing the tennis court and expanding the school parking lot in place of it would be helpful.
Even though every student, teacher, and staff of Ridgewood High School must come to school on time every morning, the current system is unsustainable and dangerous. However,one thing is clear: the way to school should be safe and comfortable. Morning traffic and drop-offs are issues that must be considered not only by the school but every one of us. Please stay safe, RHS.
Graphic: Hyeonseo Lee