opinion

Speranza: Queen Creek restricting access to schools for country club lake

By Nicole Speranza
Posted 2/10/20

I am writing in the hopes that you can help influence the Town of Queen Creek in delaying a project that will detrimentally impact the education, safety, and transportation of residents in the San …

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opinion

Speranza: Queen Creek restricting access to schools for country club lake

Posted

I am writing in the hopes that you can help influence the Town of Queen Creek in delaying a project that will detrimentally impact the education, safety, and transportation of residents in the San Tan Valley area.

A sign went up approximately Feb. 3 or 4  notifying residents that construction was to begin in the area on Feb. 10.

Having received no prior notification about construction on Combs Road, on the evening of Feb. 4 I asked Queen Creek Town Councilmember Jeff Brown via Facebook about the project. He responded immediately, stating he was not familiar with the project off the top of his head and to email him. On Feb. 5 at 5:25 p.m. I received an email response regarding the project. I was shocked to read that “all left turn lanes from Combs Road onto Gantzel Road, both eastbound and westbound, are scheduled to be closed through the entirety of this project.”

This is a major educational intersection in the community: five local schools are within approximately a 1.5 mile radius (JO Combs School District: Combs Traditional Academy, Combs Middle School, Ellsworth Elementary; American Leadership Academy: Ironwood K-6, Ironwood 7-12) with numerous others nearby.

These schools will be impacted by a decision made without consultation or consideration of the impact on students, schools and families. Schools only have been made aware of the construction within the last couple of days and families have been told there will be no modifications to existing tardiness policies.

The recently announced traffic restrictions will create even more significant delays and gridlock in an area with a great deal of construction currently underway in multiple directions, e.g., Rittenhouse, Cloud, Ocotillo, Pima Road. Though the town is “encouraging motorists to use alternative routes,” few alternative routes are available even for those who live close, causing short trips to become much longer.

Residents must travel south on Gantzel to access nearby schools (additional schools include Legacy Traditional School, Happy Valley East, Harmon Elementary, Ranch Elementary, JO Combs High School) and there is no viable alternative to safely access Gantzel. It also is the location of one of the few grocery stores nearby which is rumored to be the “busiest Fry’s in state.” Residents frequently complain that it takes 45+ minutes to take their kids to school (travelling as little as 2-4 miles), when it normally takes them five to 10 minutes during non-peak travel.

My primary concerns are the impact to the education of the students as well as their safety while traveling to and from school.

Tardiness causes students to feel disconnected with school and can lead to behavior problems. Tardiness also can negatively impact their teachers and other students, by distracting fellow students and not knowing what is happening in class when they arrive.

Additionally, school tardiness has a negative impact on learning outcomes. Students who are frequently tardy have lower GPAs, lower scores on standardized tests and lower graduation rates. Chronic tardiness also is linked to failure in high school.

Arrivals and departures from school are already a lengthy process in this education intersection and likely to become even lengthier. I urge you to seriously consider these implications and delay the project to a time that will be less detrimental to the education of San Tan Valley and Queen Creek students.

There are already safety concerns at this important educational intersection in our community. With the proposed restriction on travel, residential streets will become major thoroughfares. Even now, it is a daily occurrence that vehicles speed by school buses stopped to pick up students, fail to slow down in school zones, and do not yield to pedestrians in the crosswalks.

The project is “to fulfill the town's obligation to help the community replace the reclaimed water in the Encanterra Lake System with groundwater.” The Encanterra community was very recently and controversially annexed into Queen Creek. My biggest question is “why now?” What does the town lose (or gain) by waiting until after Memorial Day when the snowbirds are gone and school is out? What is the urgent need to undertake this project for this elite private country club at a time that will adversely impact all residents in the area? I am by no means saying not to do the project but the timing for this already congested area just seems too detrimental to all.

I realize you may think this is an overreaction to “road construction” but it is not as easy as leaving a few minutes early --- this area will be gridlocked as every other road out of this area already is under construction. Drivers will be speeding through residential areas in an attempt to find a quicker route, endangering the lives of our kids walking and biking to school.

What about the learning and safety implications? Who is going to stay when parents can’t access the schools to pick up their children? And to what end? To replace reclaimed water in a private country club’s lake system? Surely our children’s education and safety is more important than that.

According to Queen Creek Councilmember Brown, the project was approved at the Feb. 5 Town Council meeting. However, since the project was just approved two days ago with no consultation with either schools or residents, surely the project can be delayed a short time until there is less traffic in the area. It may only delay the problem, but it reduces the educational impact of the students in the community and safety of pedestrians and drivers alike.

Nicole Speranza
Parent of students at ALA Ironwood K-6, ALA Ironwood 7-12, Ellsworth Elementary
Pinal County

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