Charter HS plan causes traffic worries - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

Charter HS plan causes traffic worries

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Posted: Wednesday, April 6, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 6:35 pm, Wed Apr 6, 2011.

While neighbors support a new charter high school expected to open this fall, concerns about traffic congestion and roadway inadequacy are being raised to city and school officials.

Administrators at Paradise Education Center, a K-8 charter school in Surprise, plan to open a new high school in August.

Paradise Honors High School will be on a Maricopa County island near the southeast corner of 175th Avenue and Sweetwater Road, which is just east of the Sarah Ann Ranch community. An estimated 160 to 200 students in grades 9-12 are expected to enroll this fall.

The charter high school, which will be located on 10 acres near the residential community, will include a media center, cafeteria and gymnasium, in addition to classrooms and administrative offices to accommodate students, faculty and school administrators.

About 40 residents attended a community meeting March 30 at the Sierra Montana Recreation Center, 14861 N. Spring Lane, to voice concerns about perceived increased traffic near the Sarah Ann Ranch community and gridlock during morning and afternoon commutes.

Nick Macias, a Surprise traffic engineer, said a traffic signal will be outfitted at the intersection of Cotton Lane and Waddell Road to alleviate traffic concerns. He said the signal could be in place by the beginning of the school year or, at the latest, by December.

Macias answered questions from the vocal crowd, which expressed concerns about improvements to the median on Waddell Road needed to provide access to 175th Avenue for westbound traffic. Widening Cactus Road in some manner was also an issue.

The proposed changes on Waddell Road would not provide motorists an opportunity to make a U-turn, which some residents said would be disadvantageous with the number of parents and students driving to the school in the morning and afternoon.

Because Paradise Honors High School will offer classes from 8:30 a.m. to 2:35 p.m., Macias tried to allay residents’ concerns about increased traffic by explaining their commutes to work will take place before the rush of parents and students leave home to arrive at the campus.

Typically, Macias said, the arrival by students and parents to any school is 30 minutes prior to when the first bell rings, meaning the first rush will arrive a little after 8 a.m. Macias said rush hour in Surprise takes place prior to 8, and believes traffic should not be an issue.

Pat Schrader, executive director of Paradise Education Center, said administrators have been working for eight years to offer a high school to the charter school community. While he said the location is not ideal, it is the least expensive option for the school.

Paradise Honors High School is being paid through private donations and is not financially supported by taxpayers.

Schrader envisions a maximum 500 to 600 students in grades 9-12 attending the school in the coming years.

An estimated 1,500 students in grades K-8 attend Paradise Education Center.

Nancy Collins attended the meeting and said one of her grandsons could wind up enrolling at Paradise Honors High School. 

Collins said she believes charter schools are the wave of the future and provide more options for students and parents, especially as Surprise continues to grow and public-school classrooms battle overpopulation.

Zach Colick can be reached at 623-876-2522 or zcolick@yourwestvalley.com.

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