Parents in East Vancouver are worried about Olympic road closures that are three weeks longer than expected.
Principal David Ferguson of West Coast Christian School heard in October that the street outside his school would be closed after Jan. 24.
“I was a bit surprised to hear the news,” said Ferguson. “We knew that the road would be closed for two weeks during the Olympics, but this is a lot longer.”
West Coast Christian School is located on Renfrew Street across from Pacific Coliseum.
It will be affected by a five-week closure of Renfrew Street from East Hastings to McGill starting Jan. 24 and ending on Feb. 28.
Ferguson had planned to close the school for two weeks during the Olympics. It’s unclear how the school’s 95 students and 12 staff will cope during the first three weeks of the road closure.
“On the transportation plan map, it shows a no-stopping zone on Dundas Street,” he said, describing the intersection with Renfrew Street by the school. “I’m not sure how parents will drop off their children every morning.”
When Renfrew Street is closed to traffic, parents will need to drop off the students on Dundas Street, which could result in a line-ups of cars stopping, turning and exiting a two-lane street. Cars will have to approach the school from the west, which could result in delays and detours.
“I’m not sure how it’s going to work,” said Judy Whitley, a parent and volunteer traffic guard who helps students cross Renfrew Street every week. “Parents who drive on Renfrew to drop off their kids will have to come around by a different way.”
“I know my son will be cycling to school,” said Whitley, who lives in the area, “It’ll be quicker than driving.”
“Not business as usual”
Dale Bracewell, Director of Olympic Transportation for the City of Vancouver, confirmed that only vehicles approved by the Olympic organising committee, VANOC, would be permitted past the barricades after Jan. 24.
“It’s certainly not business as usual,” said Bracewell. “The school’s going to have to do some working with the teachers and students to understand that for this period it will be different.”
Bracewell said that although Renfrew Street will be closed to traffic, the west sidewalk on Renfrew will be open to the public. This will allow students to walk from East Hastings Street to the school during the closure.
“Hopefully the school can come up with some good solutions in the context of their specific site,” said Bracewell, confirming that driving to the school on Dundas Street may be a challenge.
“People shouldn’t expect regular access.”
Public schools affected
Vancouver School Board trustee Ken Denike confirmed that all public schools in Vancouver will remain open during the Olympics.
Students at Hastings Elementary School will be affected. 640 students and approximately 50 staff members come to the school four blocks west of Renfrew Street every day. Trying to navigate the road closures may be a challenge for parents and staff.
“I know that there will be some concerns, since lots of parents do come from a fair distance,” said Diana Pollock, a member of the school’s Parent Advisory Council. “But we haven’t really started thinking about it yet.”
Denike and VANOC are currently planning how students and staff will access schools near Olympic venues, like Elsie Roy School in Yaletown. It will be close to security perimeters at the Roundhouse Community Centre.
“We’re still figuring out the details for all the schools,” said Denike. “We developing some options, like a ‘park n ride” program for employees, but we’re not quite sure how everything will work yet.”
The city’s Bracewell recommended that families who are concerned about transportation during the Olympics should visit TravelSmart 2010, VANOC’s online guide to Olympic closures, transit services and venue access.
“Translink’s going to have more buses on Hastings, that will be able to take advantage of the faster dedicated Olympic lanes,” said Bracewell. “We’re depending on residents to reduce their vehicle trips by 30% in order to facilitate traffic flow during the games.”