Parents irked by traffic route changes at Muldown school

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Cars line up along East Seventh Street on Tuesday morning heading toward Muldown Elementary School. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

A few Muldown Elementary parents are frustrated with new changes in the drop-off parking rules at the elementary school.

When school began for the year in late August new parking and drop-off procedures were implemented at the school, but some parents say it isn’t working and voiced their concerns during last week’s Whitefish School Board meeting,

Parent Shannon Hoge said she is having trouble finding any place to park when she drops off her third graders at the school.

“For the last two years we’ve been parking in the in-between lot between the high school and Muldown to completely avoid the craziness on Seventh Street. If any of you have ever driven your child to the front of Muldown in the morning or afternoon, it’s just a crazy gridlock,” she said.

Due to the construction of the new Muldown Elementary School building in the lot adjacent to both the existing elementary and the high school buildings, bus traffic has been rerouted to a new lane south of the high school. The parking lot to the east of the high school, which in the past had been open to parents, is now reserved for Muldown and Whitefish High School staff and buses.

Hoge said she was frustrated seeing that lot blocked off.

“It was just a rude shock and a big surprise and it felt very unwelcoming,” she said. “I know we’re constricted, I know it’s a crazy location, but I just think you’ve got to make a space where parents can access the school. Make it easy for parents to bring their kids to school, and make it welcoming, so that we can build that community that we have.”

Muldown Principal Linda Whitright said she and other administrators welcome the feedback and the goal is the best possible solution for staff and parents.

“I just want to say, publicly, that we do welcome all comments and workable solutions to this and we’re going to keep on working on it,” she said. “It’s ever evolving.”

Parent Gloria Nelson agreed with the concerns, but added that encouraging students to ride the bus instead isn’t always the most realistic solution.

“I think as a school district, we want to encourage our kids to be active and to be in extracurricular activities. If [my son] rode the bus home, he would miss out on that, because he doesn’t get home until 4:15 p.m. So we have to think about what kind of community we are and what we want for our kids and our families,” she said.

Nelson also acknowledged attempted workarounds to the lack of parking, like the ability to use the Church of the Nazarene’s nearby lot, but said the issue is larger than just Muldown alone.

“There are four schools and a daycare all in the two block area. We need to be talking to all of them together,” she said.

Whitright said she understands the frustrations and she’s trying to do what she can to find the best parking solutions.

“All of these things look a certain way when you’re sitting in a room and there are no kids, no cars, no parents and you don’t know the reality until that first day. And here they all come,” she said. “Was it optimal? Was it going to solve all the problems? Absolutely not, and we knew that.”

Whitright said students coming in from the high school’s east parking lot had always a safety concern as well.

“I can honestly say from my heart, that probably was one of the scariest outlets or inlets for our kids coming from that school,” she said.

Whitright did note the sidewalk running between the school building under construction and Muldown opened for walking and biking traffic to help alleviate a bit of the traffic on Seventh Street.

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