Late this afternoon and into the evening, before our annual Homecoming bonfire, students and families will gather on our fields to celebrate this special and spirited week, to enjoy one another’s company, and, let us not forget, to savor the various offerings of the food trucks lined along our north-south campus path. Food trucks, of course, are motor vehicles, and speaking of motor vehicles, you may have noticed that traffic in the morning and afternoon hours has been a particular challenge at MICDS so far this school year. (The smooth two-wheeled Segway may be a thing of the past, but the not-so-smooth verbal segue is obviously alive and well in this letter.)
By this point in the course of a typical school year, student drop-off and pick-up routines have settled into predictable patterns, and delays associated with the arrival, circulation, and departure of hundreds of vehicles on our campus every morning and afternoon are generally not extensive. This year, however, several external factors have increased congestion on local roads at these busy times of day. One is the construction project at Lindbergh and Olive, which is doubtless impeding some drivers who live north and west of MICDS. Another that affects our families more universally is a shortage of public school bus drivers, a national problem that is also impacting St. Louis and which has resulted in more local students being transported to school in personal vehicles than in previous years. Some families for whom bus transportation is still an option may also be choosing to take their children to school in personal vehicles as a precaution against COVID-19 infection.
Because MICDS “shares the road” with several other schools in our area—Chaminade, Ladue High, and Conway Elementary most proximately—the increase in morning and afternoon traffic volume affects us all. The City of Ladue has been a helpful partner as we have endeavored to respond, particularly in reviewing and adjusting the cycling of the stoplight at the intersection of Ladue and Warson Roads and in planning to replace the four-way stop signs at the intersection of Conway and Warson Roads with a stoplight within the next two years; but these measures can only address vehicular flow, not vehicular volume, which is the greater challenge.
Recognizing that some of the factors affecting commutes to and from campus are beyond our control, we are focusing our efforts at MICDS on identifying actions that we can take to mitigate their impact in the near term. Our Athletic Department has decided, for instance, not to allow visiting team buses to enter Lot C during student dismissal, and to open up parking behind the MAC to separate these larger vehicles from parent and student traffic flows when they do access our campus. Other actions under consideration but not yet implemented include employing traffic guards to regulate vehicle flow during peak morning and afternoon periods; prohibiting left turns onto Ladue Road at specific times of day; encouraging carpooling by designating faster-moving lanes for vehicles with multiple student passengers; requiring younger students transported by older students to enter campus from Lot A; restricting the relocation of vehicles from Lot A to Lot C at the end of the school day; and postponing start times for events in the MAC until after Middle School student pick-up congestion has abated. In the event that we implement any of these—or any other—traffic flow modifications, we will communicate them to all MICDS families.
On a longer-term basis, we are interested in commissioning a formal traffic study to understand the feasibility of targeted adaptations. This inquiry, in combination with our master planning priority to improve the safety and efficiency of vehicle and pedestrian flows across campus, will put the School in a stronger position to manage external challenges such as the increase in morning and afternoon traffic on local roads that we are witnessing this year.
In the meanwhile, MICDS families can also play a part in easing vehicle congestion on and around our campus. We would encourage earlier arrivals in the morning, for example. (Parents can drop off students as early as 7:00 a.m.) Students should be ready to exit their vehicles without delay when they are dropped off and ready to enter them without delay when they are picked up. (Tailgate and trunk access at these times should be avoided whenever possible.) Parent and student drivers are also welcome to implement, of their own volition, some of the aforementioned solutions under consideration by the School—avoiding left turns onto Ladue Road, for example, and carpooling with other students, and resisting the urge to relocate vehicles from Lot A to Lot C in the afternoon for convenience. We can tackle this challenge together.
Always reason, always compassion, always courage—even, or perhaps especially, when we are stuck in traffic. I wish you a joyful Homecoming weekend with your families and loved ones.
Head of School