Red Sandstone Elementary in Vail seeks solutions to traffic issues |

Red Sandstone Elementary in Vail seeks solutions to traffic issues

Principal requests partnership with town to get cars off Frontage Road at drop off, pick up

Red Sandstone Elementary School is looking for alternative solutions and partnerships to address traffic issues at student morning drop off and afternoon pick up.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily archive

Red Sandstone Elementary School in Vail has seen a steady increase in enrollment over the past few years, and with it, the traffic at school pick-up and drop-off has steadily risen as well.

At the Feb. 7 Town Council meeting, the school’s principal approached the council seeking a partnership to find a solution.

“I’m here to plant a seed to see if you can help us find a solution to our pick up and drop off line,” said Marcie Laidman, principal of Red Sandstone, referring to the large number of cars waiting on the North Frontage Road before and after school.

In an email to the Vail Daily, Laidman said that this has been a problem for several years.

“But the problem has been exacerbated the past two years due to the school district having a difficult time hiring bus drivers,” she wrote. “Red Sandstone used to have three buses serve our population, and this year we have one.”

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This coincides with a rise in enrollment, particularly of students living in Vail. In February, Laidman told the council that the school’s enrollment has grown over the past 10 years.

“We went from 167 students at our lowest point, (to) right now, we are at 254,” she said. “And we have 132 kids who live in the town of Vail that don’t have bus service.”

Laidman told the Daily that the school has tried to implement a few solutions over the years.

“We use a walkie-talkie system in the afternoon to call students down from their classrooms prior to parents pulling up in the front of the school to keep the line moving as much as possible. We encourage parents to carpool, which some do. We have put in a right-turn-only sign at the bottom of the drive to keep traffic moving. We encourage students who can ride the bus (district and ToV) to do so,” she wrote.

However, the traffic on the frontage road has remained consistent.

In February, one solution suggested by Laidman was for the town to charter a bus to do a morning and afternoon route to drop off and pick up students at the bus stop below the school.

Laidman said that the school has sought solutions in the past — with internal committees as well as with the town’s public works and police departments — but referred to this as “our last hope to see if we could create a partnership and have a chartered bus.”

In the month since this plea to the council, no improvements have been made: “Everything is status quo,” Laidman wrote.

At the March 7 Town Council meeting, Mayor Kim Langmaid requested an update on any progress made.

“Right now, we have hundreds of cars idling out on the road because they can’t sustain a bus system,” Langmaid said.

In response, Town Manager Russ Forrest said that the town had shared a few ideas for solutions with the school, adding that there are “good solutions right there in that location.”

One solution he mentioned was for the school to increase its utilization of the Red Sandstone parking structure. The idea is that parents could park during pick up and drop off rather than queue in the roadway.

“They have a parking structure right there and they have access to parking. They also have a lot more pavement than a lot of schools to park,” Forrest said.

Laidman wrote to the Daily that “only a few people take advantage of this.”

“Parents are on their way to work in the morning, and parking in the garage is not as convenient as pulling up to the curb and having their child unload in front of the school,” she added.

And on the specific charter bus idea, Forrest said that this would be an extra expense and investment for the town.

“And we have certainly a challenge with drivers just like the school district,” he added.

So while the challenges persist, only time will tell whether or not any solutions prove successful, and whether a more concrete partnership between the school and town materializes.

“The goal is to get cars off the road, so I think anything we can do to enhance the bus system in partnership with the school district would be helpful,” Langmaid said.

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