Safety improvements made at Paul Ecke

At a Sept. 8 ribbon-cutting event, the Paul Ecke Central Elementary School (PEC) community celebrated safe-route-to-school improvements that were finished just in time for the first day of school late last month.

A collaboration between the district and the city of Encinitas, along with the school's administration, PTA and site council, resulted in the city building a median, queuing lane, parking area, sidewalk and retaining wall, which allows families approaching PEC from the east side of Vulcan Avenue to safely walk along the school's almost 500-foot long frontage.

"This is an example of where true collaboration and a significant amount of elbow grease was able to make an outstanding improvement for the health, safety and wellness of our school community," Paul Ecke principal Adriana Chavarin said in a press release. "This project is truly a demonstration of the collaboration between the Encinitas City Council, city staff, Encinitas Union School District (EUSD), PEC administration, the PEC Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and the PEC Site Council in order to make a real difference in our children's safety."

In order to complete the project, EUSD needed to cede land to the city of Encinitas in the form of an easement for the improvements. In addition, EUSD installed rubberized track around the blacktop and provided protected pedestrian access near the drop off area at the Kindergarten Gate.

Four trees were removed to accommodate the safety improvements, which were later found to have significantly shortened roots, making them vulnerable to falling during strong winds. These trees, along with a memorial oak tree commemorating PEC parent and volunteer Bobby Medley, will be replanted before the school's fall break.

"We now have a safe and beautiful access to the school for the families, neighbors and members of our community," said Paul Ecke PTA president Rebecca Conley. "Parents can safely park and access the school. Families picking up in the queuing lane can line up out of harm's way. Families parking on the east side of Vulcan Avenue can safely walk on the sidewalk.

"We are not done yet, but we have come a long way to making our school a safer place for everyone."

The changes to Vulcan Avenue were some of the last in a series of measures aimed at increasing the safety of children and families who walk, bike and drive to the school. The Traffic and Public Safety Commission will consider one final outstanding request, for a stop sign at Vulcan Avenue and Union Street, at an upcoming meeting.

Other improvements already made include the stop sign at Cereus Street and Hygeia Avenue in May 2015; a revised traffic management plan launched in August 2015; a high visibility cross walk and speed feedback monitors on Vulcan Avenue in April 2016; a "no parking during school drop off and pick up" zone on Cereus Street in June 2016; and an additional bike rack at Orpheus Park, to accommodate the large number of bicyclists opting to access the school through the local park, in August 2016.

A team including former PEC PTA president Amy Flicker and Conley spearheaded the safety initiative, while former head of the PTA Traffic and Safety Committee Tasha Boerner Horvath helped coordinate with all of the different agencies involved.

Chavarin, Conley, Flicker and Boerner Horvath, a city council candidate, attended the Sept. 8 ribbon-cutting, along with city council member (and mayoral candidate) Catherine Blakespear; EUSD Superintendent Tim Baird; new Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Andree Grey; city engineer Matt Widelski, who ran the project; and Art Schmidt, president of the Paul Ecke site council.

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