Charlottetown Parent Council Chair Claire Wing stands with her son Brayden in front of Charlottetown JPS. Claire said traffic became a big problem in January when students returned to school again

By Denise Bacon

Before and after school traffic at Charlottetown Junior Public School has been a problem for a long time. “I remember traffic was a problem when I taught at Charlottetown in the late 1980s,” said Centennial resident, Julia Peck. This concern has flared up over the years and it’s back again.

Families living on Charlottetown Blvd. are concerned for their own safety and the safety of children who walk to school. Jeanne Laverock’s home office overlooks the street near the school and she has witnessed people driving recklessly just to get through the morning traffic jam. She related a recent example: “A frustrated driver sped up the wrong side of the road, with the car horn blaring, to pass stopped cars and a bus. Fortunately, the driver was able to slam on the brakes in time at the crosswalk where children were crossing.”

This example, while extreme, is reflective of the traffic craziness in front of Charlottetown school every morning with slightly less intensity at the end of the school day. The normal two-lane residential road can feel like a busy four-lane city street. Horns are often heard honking, suggesting driver impatience even though it is only patience that is needed.

Two school buses bring students to Charlottetown from nearby daycare centres and a third bus brings students to school from the neighbourhood. Cars often block the school bus area, which exacerbates the traffic problem.

Parents who park on the road to drop off their children are sometimes seen darting between traffic to get to the school. The busy crosswalk, staffed by a city-funded crossing guard, gets blocked by parents wanting to get as close as possible to the front door.

All this pandemonium takes place during a window of approximately 15 minutes every morning.

Parent Council Chair Claire Wing pointed out that the school start time changed in 2020 and now it’s the same as Mowat’s. “The traffic became a huge problem in January 2022 when most students returned to school from virtual classes,” said Claire.

TDSB Trustee Anu Sriskandarajah said, “Start times for elementary schools are tied to school bus times and would be very difficult to change.” But she said that she would bring the issue of the same school start times for Mowat and Charlottetown to the attention of TDSB Superintendent John Currie. The hope is that the start time for Mowat would be changed to lessen the traffic congestion on Charlottetown Blvd. If Mowat’s start time is changed to a later start, Mowat students would be available to earn volunteer hours by helping with the Kiss & Ride program at Charlottetown.

The Trustee referenced Green Communities Canada, which delivers a program called Ontario Active School Travel. “Education and engagement among all the stakeholders, school, parents, students and community, are key to reducing traffic and danger to students,” the Trustee said. Less driving by parents also promotes healthy habits for students.

A “walking bus” is a way for older students to buddy up with young children to walk them to school safely. This is another good opportunity for Mowat students to earn volunteer hours.

When driving children to school is necessary, car-pooling with neighbourhood parents would reduce the number of cars and the traffic problems. Also, parents can park a short distance away from the school and have their children walk to school safely while building healthy walking habits.

Councillor Jennifer McKelvie has requested Toronto Police Service to do more traffic blitzes on Charlottetown Blvd. during the morning rush period. She has also made a request to Transportation Services for “No U-Turn” signs to be installed.

Trustee Sriskandarajah and Councillor McKelvie both confirmed that traffic problems are not unique to Charlottetown JPS. However, they both recognized the negative impact of the traffic problems on the children and residents in the area. While each official will do what they can within their respective jurisdictions, parents should also do their part to keep the children and neighbours safe.