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Time change for Sparks school zone
by Garrett Valenzuela
Mar 05, 2013 | 3826 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Flashing school zone traffic signals near Spanish Springs High and Shaw Middle schools are now on a single schedule encompassing both schools.
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Flashing school zone traffic signals near Spanish Springs High and Shaw Middle schools are now on a single schedule encompassing both schools.
SPARKS -- Spanish Springs residents know very well the school zone that stretches along Eagle Canyon Road encompassing Shaw middle and Spanish Springs high schools. Those residents may have noticed a little change in that zone during their morning commutes or trips to the schools.

Washoe County crews have changed the previous operation of the flashing school zone signals to reflect a single operating zone rather than two separate zones for the middle and high schools. The change, according to a Washoe County engineer, addresses confusion and enforcement implications in the area.

The new times when the school zone signals will be flashing are as follows:

•7 to 8 a.m. Monday through Friday.

•2 to 2:50 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

•1:15 to 2:05 p.m. on Wednesday.

“What we had originally was the two schools had two different school zones that were a half hour apart,” said Clara Lawson, licensed engineer for Washoe County. “We were trying to minimize the impact to motor vehicles because it is a pretty long area.”

Lawson said, after consulting the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office and Washoe County School District Police, that “issues with enforcement” led to the decision to combine the two school zones. Lawson said many of the students at Shaw Middle School were part of extracurricular activities that caused them to remain at the school longer than the original school zone allowed, which also played a role in authorizing the change.

Lawson added that a single contiguous school zone will reduce confusion for motorists and remove the unusual ‘End of School Zone’ sign in the middle of the zones. She said eliminating confusion is ultimately safer for children.

“Occasionally these kids don’t just race home after school so we are trying to keep it safe for them,” she said. “It is easy for me to say I understand them because I work with them all the time, but I can see how it can become confusing. It is just much safe for kids this way.”

Local school administrators are ecstatic over the change.

“I think it’s a great thing,” said Shaw Principal Gina Leonard, who handles outside student safety chores before and after school. “There’s so much traffic tied between the two schools, it needed to be one zone. It was confusing … And I haven’t noticed it creating any more traffic than before.”

She wasn’t alone in her sentiment.

“It is an excellent idea,” Spanish Springs vice principal Jennifer Ritch said. “Everyone is aware now. There’s no confusion. I’d be driving through there and some people would be speeding past you while some were going slow. This provides continuity for all the students to be safe. Now, no one second guesses. They don’t have to think what time it is and wonder if a signal is turned on or off.

There will be “plenty of lights in every direction” to let drivers know when the school zone is under enforcement Lawson added. Deputy Armando Avina, public information officer for the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, said Eagle Canyon is largely in the Sheriff’s Office jurisdiction and, though he could not comment on the particular change in the traffic signals, he knows that stretch of road to be very busy and potentially dangerous.

“If you really go through and pay attention to the areas with kids you have two parks, a day care facility, a middle school and a high school,” Avina said. “Then take into account the slope of that road and how people will tend to accelerate, whether it be heading up the road or coming down, I do see where they have an issue.”

Avina said the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Division is able to field calls pertaining to specific traffic signals then “saturate the area.” He added that Eagle Canyon Road receives more than just school traffic due to motorists commuting from Spanish Springs to all over the region.
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