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DRCA Opposes Special Drop-Off Zone for School

Del Ray Montessori wants to allow parents to pick up and drop off kids outside school on E. Windsor Avenue.

A special request by Del Ray Montessori to create a pick-up and drop-off zone for students on E. Windsor Avenue met with opposition from the Del Ray Citizens Association on Monday night. 

The association voted 14-3 to oppose efforts by the fledgling school to designate an area along the north side of E. Windsor Avenue, adjacent to Del Ray United Methodist Church, for parents taking their kids to and from school. 

Parking is currently restricted on the north side of the street and would continue to be under the proposal. However, under the plan, an area of about two car lengths or more would be reserved for the school, and allow for teachers to meet the parents at the cars to ferry the children into the school in the morning and bring them out in the afternoon. 

Association members feared the change would complicate travel on Windsor Avenue, which they noted is a narrow street. 

Del Ray Montessori opened a daycare and school last summer in the church and currently has 21 students, more than half of whom walk, bike or scooter to school, said school founder Sarah Fondriest. The school seeks to expand enrollment by 20 students, a move the DRCA unanimously supports. 

A separate daycare center, Creative Play School, operates from the church already and uses the church lot adjacent to Clyde Avenue for parking as well as its own pick-up and drop-off needs. Adding even more cars to the lot would aggravate existing issues with traffic in the narrow lanes of Clyde Avenue, school officials say. 

The DRCA Land Use Committee recommended instead that the city remove two or three parking spaces at the southern end of the east curb of Clyde Avenue and create a loading zone which could then be used by Del Ray Montessori. 

Several association members disagreed with that idea, however, including Del Ray resident Gayle Reuter.

"Based on living a block from Clyde and walking in this area most mornings, I was very concerned for the congestion already facing this overcrowded block," Reuter said in an email on Tuesday. "With parking permitted on both sides of Clyde and cars often having to back up due to oncoming cars, I supported the city's, the church's and Montessori's school recommendation to have drop-off and pick-up on Windsor Avenue."

The DRCA will send its recommendation to City Council, which will consider the application during a public hearing scheduled for Feb. 25. 

The Alexandria Planning Commission approved the application with a 7-0 vote on Feb. 7. 

At that time, Planning Commissioner Eric Wagner, addressed the land-use committee's concerns. "All east-west streets in Del Ray are narrow, not just Windsor."

Maria Wasowski, president of the Del Ray Business Association, also spoke at the planning commission in support of the school's proposal to create the special zone on Windsor Avenue.

"Kids can walk straight in and straight out," she said. "You don't have to take parking spaces away."

Drew Hansen contributed to this report.

McBrinn February 16, 2012 at 04:41 PM
"Also of importance I believe is that the VAST majority of the current students and prospective students will be walking" Really? Most folks I know with kids actually drive to do the drop off and then continue to drive to work.
Larry Altenburg February 16, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Why should the new Montessori School have a different arrangement than the Creative Playschool daycare, Pre-K and after school care program in the same building? The number of students at the Montessori pales in comparison to Creative. If the planning commission allows something special for the Montessori School then they create a precedent for Creative being treated in a similar fashion. That would increase the potential use of the loading zone exponentially. That being said, I oppose the creation of a special loading zone for the Montessori School. The primary entrance for both schools is in the rear of the church, not the front.
Dana Damico February 16, 2012 at 06:27 PM
The primary entrance for the Montessori is on East Windsor Avenue, right next to the proposed zone for pick-ups and drop-offs.
Sarah haut February 18, 2012 at 06:50 PM
I fully support the montessori school - I went to one and it is a great way to learn. However the article I think misrepresents the drop off zone. It states "Parking is currently restricted on the north side of the street and would continue to be under the proposal..." Parking is not restricted. It is PROHIBITED. This is a travel lane. It is also unfortunate that this article does not mention that Windsor Avenue is one of the primary routes used by the ambulance. In a medical emergency, every minute counts. So, if there is an emergency during the pick up/drop off time, an ambulance has to wait for a minute while a child is being helped out of the car. Is that an acceptable solution - I don't think so. As someone mentioned at the DRCA meeting - if the church wants to have this school in its facility, then it should work on a better solution for the pickup and drop off of students.
Ashley February 21, 2012 at 02:52 PM
I find it disappointing that the Church and the 2 businesses (Creative and Montesorri) can not collaborate to SHARE the parking lot and promote safety for students of both schools. The Church has one of the coveted parking lots in the community and both schools should have access to it.

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