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School drop-off parking draws Newmarket council ire

After complaints, council seeks solutions from boards for parents parking on community streets to walk kids to school
20220627-Twinney school boards-JQ
Newmarket Councillor Jane Twinney speaks at a June 27 council meeting.

Newmarket council wants local school boards to take a harder look at how they get younger children into class due to community parking concerns.

Councillor Jane Twinney said that some residents near St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Elementary School are talking about a no-parking zone due to parents parking in nearby side streets to walk their younger kids to school. Council passed a resolution June 27 to send a letter requesting local school boards to examine their policies to help solve the issue.

“It seems like it’s always put on us to figure out the problem,” Twinney said. “We’re trying to balance their expectations of what (residents) should have living in the area, with the expectations of the residents that have these small children and are trying to get them into school but have nowhere to go. It’s like a no-win situation.” 

Twinney said younger children tend to require parent escort when getting dropped off at school. Both York Region District School Board (YRDSB) and York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) have told parents in their student transportation information to try parking a block or two away and walking if driving a child to school.

Mayor John Taylor said it is a longstanding issue that has dated back at least a decade. He said schools are not well designed for the influx, and at the very least, the conversation could hopefully spur consideration for the next time a school is built in town.

“It’s a problem at a number of schools,” he said. “In a lot of cases, it’s really just not been thought out or planned properly … The schools needed to be planned for the kind of uses they’re going to have.” 

The YCDSB communications department noted there is an ongoing pilot, including at St. Elizabeth Seton, to improve pedestrian safety with visible markings and signage around schools and encourage more walking. 

"Both school boards have been working with Town of Newmarket staff to look at alternatives to the typical congestion," the communications team said. "Park and walk a block was one of the many strategies implemented to encourage residents to walk to school.  The decrease in walking to school is a national issue which most municipalities and school boards struggle to address.

These are conversations that she has had with school staff repeatedly, Twinney said.

“We keep talking, but nothing is happening,” she said. “It needs to be brought to the attention of the school board at a higher level." 

Schools could give younger children living close by the option to bus in, something that does not necessarily happen, Twinney suggested.

Councillor Kelly Broome said more staggered start times could be a point included in helping alleviate the issue.

Although classes about to break for summer, Broome said administrative staff would still be working and examining their schools.

“It does take time in order to make changes,” she said. "We want to do our best to have those changes as close to the fall as possible. And in order to do that, this would be the best time to move forward."