SHIRLEY -- Based on an earlier request from Ayer-Shirley Regional School District Superintendent Carl Mock to reverse one-way traffic flow on School Street during school hours so that vehicles enter from Lancaster Road and exit via Harvard Road rather than the other way around, selectmen held a public hearing Monday night to consider the change.
The matter is settled now. The selectmen have agreed to enact the change on Dec. 18.
Police Chief J. Gregory Massak presented the new traffic plan. Currently, the one-way enter-exit route is east to west, he said. The proposal was to switch that pattern so that traffic flows west to east during normal school hours when school is in session.
Chairman Andy Deveau traced the discussion back to August, when Sgt. Alfreda Cromwell, in her temporary role as acting police chief, brought the request to the board.
Lura A. White Elementary School Principal Patricia Fitzgerald set the wheels in motion when she went to the administration about kids' safely getting on and off school buses.
Buses entering from Harvard Road and pulling into the driveway in front of the school end up with their doors on the "wrong side," Fitzgerald said, and despite an "attentive staff" looking out for them, there were concerns about students' safety.
Thus the proposal to turn things around, literally. If the buses enter from Lancaster Road, that dilemma goes away.
School Street's limited one-way status dates back four years, when the problem the police sought to address was traffic back-up on busy Lancaster Road -- which leads to Route 2 -- when school buses were coming and going, along with parents dropping off and picking up kids at the school.
Asked if that could happen again, Massak said it's unlikely, since there are fewer buses now than there were then.
Mock polled School Street residents about the move, with positive results, Massak said.
The plan calls for publicizing the change ahead of time, the chief continued, including letters sent home with students, notices in local newspapers and on local cable access TV and perhaps displaying the town's electronic sign board at the Harvard Street end of School Street "for a week or so." Police will also be on hand to direct traffic, just in case, he said, but he did not foresee problems.
The question then became whether to make the change full-time, versus only during school hours and the school year.
After some discussion, the consensus was that a 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. time frame was logical and feasible and that permanent signs posted on the street at both ends should state the scenario as simply as possible.