By John Lynds
Since the Edward Brooke Charter School opened on Byron Street in East Boston it has received praise and accolades from educators and residents for its curriculum and state test scores.
However, there is one aspect of the school that has received a certain degree of negativity from neighbors and residents along Byron and Bennington Street.
The current system of drop off and pick up at the start and end of each school day has been causing gridlock on Bennington and Byron Streets. Since school started numerous buses have been double parking on Bennington Street, blocking intersections and MBTA bus shelters and making Byron Street too narrow for Eastie motorists to navigate. This, many neighbors complain, is leading to an unsafe situation around the school during arrival and dismissal and it is only a matter of time before there is an accident or worse.
“One morning recently it was an absolute mess,” said Thomas Tassinari who lives near the school on Wordsworth Street. “The MBTA bus couldn’t even stop to let out people or pick up people and all the new handicapped corners were inaccessible and blocked by school buses and parents dropping off students. “Someone is going to get killed and the Brooke needs to be called to task about loading and unloading their students.”
The Brooke’s Director of Operations Emily Burnor admitted the situation has gotten out of hand.
“We have indeed received several complaints from neighbors about the traffic at arrival and dismissal, most of which have been entirely warranted,” said Burnor. “The safety of our students is our top priority. It is also extremely important to us that our daily arrival and dismissal proceeds in a way that minimizes disruption to the surrounding neighborhoods. We take very seriously the responsibility of effectively managing the movement of our 500 students and 13 school buses each day at arrival and dismissal.”
Burnor said the school and its staff, now in its fifth year, have learned much about what needs to happen to ensure a dismissal that is safe and orderly. This, she said, includes ensuring that only four buses are lined up for pick-up or drop-off at a time on Byron Street and that no additional buses are lined up on Bennington Street. It also includes ensuring that there are no illegally parked cars in the designated bus areas during arrival and dismissal.
“The beginning of each school year frequently requires that we establish these norms all over again,” said Burnor. “We are working with the bus company and Boston Public Schools to ensure that bus drivers know that buses should not be parking or staging or waiting on Bennington Street. And we are working with the city to ensure that parking rules along Bennington are strictly enforced.”
Burnor said school representatives will address the community directly at the next Orient Heights Neighborhood Council meeting on Monday, September 19 at the Ashley Street YMCA.
“We look forward to attending the next meeting of the Orient Heights Neighborhood Council to discuss specific concerns of neighbors further,” she said.