Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Winthrop Charter School parents roll with challenges of busy site

RIVERVIEW — Amid beer delivery trucks and construction projects, busy intersections and winding interior roads, 800 children in bright red polo shirts need to go home from school.

With the opening of Winthrop Charter School last month, heavy traffic flooded around Winthrop Town Centre as families shuttled students to and from the new brick elementary school. The charter school, a free public school option operated by a private company, does not have busing options and requires its families to drop off and pick up children.

And it has the highest enrollment of any first-year charter school that has opened in Hillsborough County, said Jenna Hodgens, the school district's charter supervisor.

The first two days of school brought two-hour waits at pickup time for some parents and prompted law enforcement to send a helicopter to scout stand-still car lines on Providence Road and Bloomingdale Avenue.

"The first day was incredible," said Juan Marcial, a 60-year-old from Clair-Mel who picks up two grandchildren from Winthrop Charter. "Traffic is crazy."

The school had set up an entryway to skirt nearby Symmes Elementary and staggered dismissal times of its kindergarten through sixth-grade classes, principal Terry Johnson said. But cars clogged the roads as parents arrived before their scheduled pickup window, and families reported some confusion with the plastic name placards required to collect their children.

"Coming out of the gate, you have your challenges that you have to face," Johnson said.

But with help from the Sheriff's Office, the school reworked the pickup plan to whittle the afternoon frenzy to 30 to 45 minutes, he said.

Within the shopping plaza, which includes a Publix, a Starbucks and a Green Iguana restaurant, cars now cruise in an hour before the 2:30 to 3 p.m. dismissal. Many of them line the small roads of the connecting parking lots or fill spots near other businesses — which Winthrop developer John Sullivan says he welcomes.

On a recent afternoon, cars honk at pedestrians. Cars pull out of spaces. Cars back into spaces. Cars carve out three-point turns in the middle of the road. A truck drives over a curb to park on an empty grassy lot.

"This could be a lot better," said Tina Christie, 28, of Riverview, who has a child in third grade at the school. "Anything could happen."

The streets closer to the school are blocked off, and school staffers direct traffic and supervise students. There are sidewalks and crosswalks around school property. Stop signs abound, but there are no posted speed limits.

Johnson, the principal, and Sullivan, the center's developer, both said they had no safety concerns.

Riverview mother of two Jackie MacLean, 49, praised school administrators for quick improvements to the hectic dismissal.

"I just hope it gets better," she said. "And I think it will."

The number of cars streaming in may still grow: Sullivan said plans to expand Winthrop Charter may call for another structure near the complex, in addition to 750 housing units slated to be built in the development area.

Increased traffic may benefit businesses, he said, noting the flux of red-shirted children inside Publix and busier mornings at Starbucks.

Winthrop Charter dad Brian Valyko, ambled over to the school on a recent afternoon from a distant parking spot.

"It's nuts," he said calmly. "What can you do?"

The growing pains are worth the charter-school experience, he said. As long as his two daughters continue to love the school, Valyko, 35, doesn't mind holding their hands to walk back to the car.

"But if six months from now, it's still chaotic, I'd definitely reconsider keeping them here."

Stephanie Wang can be reached at swang@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2443.

Winthrop Charter School parents roll with challenges of busy site 09/03/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 2, 2011 1:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Feeling mental fatigue after Hurricane Irma and other disasters? It's real.

    Consumer

    TAMPA — Blackness. Eyes closed or open, the same.

    A Tampa Bay Times reporter in a sensory deprivation tank used for floating therapy at Sacred Floats & Gems Co. located at 6719 N Nebraska Avenue, in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, September 19, 2017. Floating therapy relaxes people because they experience a sense of zero gravity when they are inside the tank, which contains 150 gallons of water and 1000 pounds of medical grade Epsom salt. ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times
  2. Trump vows more sanctions on North Korea

    World

    President Donald Trump vowed Thursday to impose more sanctions on North Korea as he prepared to meet with his counterparts from Japan and South Korea to seek a common strategy in confronting the isolated nuclear-armed state.

    U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters on Sept. 19, 2017. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017 in New York described as "the sound of a dog barking" Trump's threat to destroy his country. [Associated Press]
  3. Tampa chamber of commerce votes against tax increase on business property

    Retail

    TAMPA — The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce on Thursday voted against supporting a city of Tampa plan to raise taxes on commercial properties in the city for 2018. The property tax, included in the city's proposed $974 million budget, would boost taxes from $5.73 to $6.33 for every $1,000 in property value.

    The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce voted against supporting a city tax hike on commercial property. Pictured is Bob Rohrlack, CEO of the chamber. | [Times file photo]
  4. How should St. Pete make up for dumping all that sewage? How about a street sweeper?

    Blogs

    Every crisis has a silver lining.

    In the case of St. Petersburg’s sewage crisis, which spawned state and federal investigations and delivered a state consent decree ordering the city to fix a dilapidated sewer system, the upside is figuring out how to satisfy the $810,000 civil penalty levied by the Florida …

    City Council chairwoman Darden Rice said it was important to chose carefully because residents will be paying attention.
  5. A boy and a girl stare at the camera from their house after Hurrciane Maria hit the eastern region of the island, in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, September 20, 2017. The strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years destroyed hundreds of homes, knocked out power across the entire island and turned some streets into raging rivers in an onslaught that could plunge the U.S. territory deeper into financial crisis. [Associated Prss]