By Ian Faulkner, Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 13, 2013 —
The traffic pattern at West Stanly High School (WSHS), located off N.C. 24-27, was rearranged in early 2012, but was it a change for the better?
“From the DOT standpoint, absolutely. Traffic has improved,” said Paite Butler of North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) for Stanly County.
“DOT’s initial reasons in going out there was the school board asked us to help with the traffic pattern. Traffic was backed up to the road. People who came to pick up their kids would be out in the road.”
According to Butler, NCDOT came up with an initial pattern augmentation, but WSHS needed to tweak it a bit before they accepted it.
“The school built facilities, a sidewalk and canopy for the rear of the school where loading and unloading is,” Butler said.
“Traffic does not back out onto 24-27. The school can hold all traffic generated internally.
“It used to be a mass exit. Now it is a uniform line, controlled by the traffic signal. Everyone is under control in organized, uniform lines. It is much safer from a crash standpoint. Now they know where everybody is going.
“We definitely think it was a major improvement,” Butler said.
West Stanly Principal Kim Page commented on the traffic situation in an email correspondence.
“When the new pattern began in January 2012, several safeguards were put into place. Crosswalks, signage and speedbumps were added to assist both pedestrians and automobiles. School staff continued monitoring and directing traffic as had been done with the previous pattern. This staff group met regularly to review problems and issues that did come up with the new routing,” she wrote.
“As problems were presented and possible solutions were provided, school administration met with NCDOT to correct the problems. An example of this was the removal of some of the speed bumps that had been put into pattern that we discovered slowed the internal traffic too much.
“So far we have noticed that the traffic now does not back up on the main highway like it did before the change.
“Traffic may have to wait some on 24-27, but it does not come to a complete stop for the length of time it did before the change. With the change in flow, the external issues once caused by the traffic at WSHS have now been reduced.
“NCDOT, Stanly County Schools and West Stanly High School staff have all worked together to make this project possible. I realize this solution is not perfect, and we will continue to monitor it for the safety of our students and those on the highway. It is a part of the continuous improvement we all strive for in education.”
WSHS wasn’t the only school in the area to have the traffic patterns redrawn at that time.
“We did West Stanly Middle School (WSMS) at the same time to coordinate the buses. The problem is there are buses shared between the middle school and the high school,” Butler said.
The traffic patterns had to be fixed at the same time because the schools share buses.
“We created stacking lanes that mimic what they have at North Stanly Middle School. With stacking lanes, WSMS can still maintain its traffic.”
It’s a lot safer of a situation with parents sitting in the parking lot rather than in the roadway, maintains Butler.
“They don’t have to back out into traffic, now,” Butler said.
In a different part of the county, in the not too distant past, another major highway was augmented for school purposes.
Stoplights were installed along U.S. 52 in front of North Stanly High School (NSHS) to aid with congestion caused by morning arrivals and afternoon departures.
“We’ve been very pleased with the NSHS lights,” said Art Whittacker, transportation director for Stanly County Schools.
“They’ve helped with moving buses in and out at Austin Road. They couldn’t use Austin and now they can. They’ve been able to utilize roads that they couldn’t have before.
“They couldn’t pull out and shoot across  because of Austin, but with the lights controlled on 52 it has helped them to use this and be more efficient on the bus routes.”
Whittacker summed up by saying the lights have cut down on traffic accidents in the area and helped with the flow of buses.