Officials Cite Some Success Combating School Traffic, But Many Issues Remain

The Wellington Municipal Complex.

Traffic snarls at Wellington schools are generating a host of attempted improvements and ongoing challenges, according to a report to the Wellington Education Committee on Tuesday, May 2.

School district officials and Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office representatives highlighted some of the efforts undertaken during the school year now coming to a close.

“Even though it’s not perfect, I think the traffic situation has gotten a lot better over the last year and a half or so,” said Karen Whetsell, central region instructional superintendent for the School District of Palm Beach County.

At Wellington High School, for example, signs prohibiting U-turns have been posted along Greenview Shores Blvd., she noted.

Designated staff members arrive before 7 a.m. and open gates and supervise students, with funding for expanded work hours. A student drop-off process has been updated, and a bus loop has been relocated to expand the car loop, Whetsell said.

At Binks Forest Elementary School, parents have been allowed to drop off students in an expanded range of time, have been encouraged to use school district transportation, and have seen the addition of two golf cart parking areas to reduce traffic.

Traffic at other schools, including Wellington Landings Middle School, continues to produce concerns from parents, Committee Member John Webber said.

Reminders of risks and hazards remain. On the afternoon of March 9, a 71-year-old Wellington man died after a car driven by an 18-year-old struck his vehicle on Greenview Shores Blvd. north of Wellington High School.

“Unfortunately, like the young man who ran into the elderly man by McDonald’s and took his life, which was horrific, we can’t always stop those events,” PBSO Sgt. Matt DeJoy said. “We can try to educate, we can try to minimize, and we can do enforcement to try to curtail people from making bad decisions.”

For a village with a population approaching 70,000, and more than a dozen public and private schools, “we truly only have six designated traffic vehicles,” DeJoy said.

Two of those vehicles deal primarily with heavy trucks and agricultural and equestrian equipment, so that really leaves four that are rotated to various schools, he said.

DeJoy said crash numbers in the most recent full year have come down, though specific statistics were not available at the meeting.

Sometimes parents park illegally and arrange for students to meet them in order to avoid lines, and the PBSO in some cases has stepped up issuing citations as opposed to warnings, DeJoy said.

In other instances, such as dropping off students in unofficial locations near a school, the presence of a PBSO motorcycle can send an enforcement message without any citations being written, he said.

“It’s a universal problem,” Webber said. “At the tail end of the year, it tends to get a little bit better, but come August, it’s going to be a nightmare again.”