Murrieta Valley High School parents and students are happy to be gaining access to internationally recognized academic programs, resources and positive parent engagement in Principal Eric Mooney's second year at the school. In addition to the successful, popular International Baccalaureate Program (IB) for upperclassmen, the Murrieta principal is also paying attention to the safety and comfort of students, parents, and the school community with an eye to improving school traffic flow.
My daughter is in her senior year at Murrieta Valley High School and in her time there, we are seeing her achieve academically and personally in a strong community environment. We know that she will be well prepared for college, with plans that include attending a university abroad, bolstered by the International Baccalaureate Program's focus on critical thinking and questioning.
Parents remain active and involved in the school that is known as a strong academic performer among Murrieta's three high schools. Principal Money holds regular Principal Chats with parents, embraces technology and encourages students to use sophisticated online tools like the Wolfram|Alpha: Computational Knowledge Engine and Shmoop: Homework Help, that support and encourage academic performance. Students have access to learning environments like Flip Style math classes that have been a game changer for those who have struggled in the past.
But an access problem outside the classroom persists. Despite everything that Principal Mooney is doing to engage parents, build community and achieve excellence, students and parents have a daily struggle getting in and out of school. And the problem is escalating.
During morning drop-off, vehicle traffic can back up through three signaled intersections along Washington Avenue. The Murrieta Valley High School campus was not designed to accommodate the volume of traffic it sees every day. Poor campus layout and unclear markings add to the confusion and the traffic jams and parents are not happy. At a recent meeting, Murrieta Valley High School parents complained of bike lanes that start and stop inexplicably and pointed out that the dedicated bike lane on Nighthawk Way is on the wrong side of the road.
The daily conflict between vehicles and student pedestrians in and around campus is in direct conflict to Principal Mooney's commitment to school safety, a commitment that he takes seriously. The City of Murrieta Police Department stations an officer at school every day and the City's traffic engineer is aware of the ongoing problems.
As a person of action, Principal Mooney is not focused on complaining about the untenable traffic situation. He is focused on affecting positive change. And so are the parents. At a recent Principals Chat we discussed the Riverside County Public Health "Walk to School Program" and how to improve drop-off and pick-up challenges that have become dangerous, stressful and costly.
As a parent and an engineer, I am encouraged that there are some easy, no cost changes we can make to reduce student/vehicle conflicts on campus right away. These changes include opening an existing pedestrian gate on Nighthawk Way for students as a first choice of entry and giving them a way to avoid walking through a busy exit driveway. As we work to make these changes to improve the school community and student safety, we also must address the other pressing issue that is causing emotional and financial strain on parents.
Consensus among the parents at the Principals Chat is that the aggressive ticketing around campus by the Murrieta Police Department during morning drop-off is making a bad traffic situation worse. The excessive fines are a drain on the community and parents do not see a way out of what is becoming an impossible and unfair situation. Fellow Murrieta Valley High School parent Alysa Cole says, "it is entrapment."
And that's just the beginning.