Mountain View Elementary School Principal Karl Kircher (green) helps direct student pick up traffic at the end of the school day on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Mountain View Elementary School Principal Karl Kircher (green) helps direct student pick up traffic at the end of the school day on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

‘Critical needs’: Parking lot problems

Lack of space for pickup and drop-offs creates traffic jam at elementary school

Editor’s note: This article is the fifth in a five-part series spotlighting conditions in Kenai Peninsula Borough School District schools. A bond package on the Oct. 4 municipal election ballot would fund 10 projects affecting 13 borough schools to address some of the district’s infrastructure issues.

About one-third of the students at Mountain View Elementary line up on the blacktop in front of the school building each day. They’re waiting to be picked up by their parents, for whom the school’s parking lot has been transformed into a streamlined school pick up space.

While the students, grouped by grade level behind orange traffic cones, mingle with one another, a fleet of Mountain View staff — including Principal Karl Kircher — coordinate via walkie-talkie to make the pickup area as efficient as possible. One staff member groups five cars at a time and communicates to staff monitoring class lines which students should be ready to get in their cars.

Then, the five cars drive in a line in front of the waiting students, where teachers are ready to match pupils with their parents. The cycle of grouping cars, locating students and loading students goes on cyclically until all of the students have been picked up. That system plays out daily at the elementary school, which is located at the end of Swires Road in Kenai.

“It’s quite a dance to get everybody out,” Kircher said Thursday.

Improvements to Mountain View Elementary School’s student pickup and drop-off space — as well as improvements to the school’s roof — are included in a $65.5 million bond package that Kenai Peninsula voters will consider during the Oct. 4 municipal election. Efforts to fund long-term solutions to some of the school district’s ongoing maintenance problems have been years in the making.

KPBSD last fall identified $420 million worth of maintenance, including $166 million worth of “critical needs.” Many of the projects represent deferred maintenance, or projects that have been put off for an extended period of time. The project list would affect 13 of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s 42 schools, all of which are owned by the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

Because Mountain View’s front “parking lot” is used to optimize parent drop-off and pickup, Kircher said the school’s 65 staff have taken to parking behind the school, on grass or on gravel. The change in traffic patterns, he said, has been necessitated by a general uptick in the number of parents driving their kids to and from school and a spike during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kircher said staff now have the process refined to a tight routine. Class ends 15 minutes early for students who are being picked up by their parents and five minutes early for students who take the bus. Kircher, who can see the parking lot from his office, said it’s not unusual to see cars lining up at 2:15 p.m., but when people ask him he says to show up between 3-3:15 p.m.

“We can dump 100 to 125 kids — we can get them in cars and out — in about 12 minutes,” Kircher said.

He said he doesn’t have a specific outline in mind for how he’d like to see the pickup and drop-off spaces improved, but that it would be good to have a designated space on the side of the school for buses and a parking lot for staff. He also thinks it would be nice to have a covered area for students to stand under while waiting for parents.

“It takes a lot of manpower,” Kircher said of the school’s current routine. “We can’t say enough times (that) safety is primary. Secondary is making sure that we have as much academic time as we can, because we’re actually carving 10 minutes off of the academic time for kids. We have to get them early to get them out there.”

Also at stake for Mountain View Elementary through the bond package is the future of the school’s leaky windows. There are multiple bay windows located throughout the school, including in classrooms, but they’re prone to leaks when ice dams accumulate during the winter.

Kircher said the current practice is for maintenance workers to climb onto the roof and break off the ice using sledgehammers. When the ice accumulates, he said, leaks usually follow. In one classroom, traces of water can be found on spotlights over the plants by the window.

“They come and they take care of it and they maintain it, but I can’t imagine what the heating cost is if that insulation is getting wet,” Kircher said.

In the event that the bond package does not pass on Tuesday, Kircher said the school will continue with the system of workarounds he and other staff have perfected.

“We’ll keep doing it,” Kircher said. “We do what we have to do.”

More information about the school improvement bond up for consideration next month can be found on the Kenai Peninsula Borough website at kpb.us/mayor/prop2.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

Mountain View Elementary School Principal Karl Kircher (green) helps direct student pick up traffic at the end of the school day on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Mountain View Elementary School Principal Karl Kircher (green) helps direct student pick up traffic at the end of the school day on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Mountain View Elementary School Principal Karl Kircher (green) helps direct student pick up traffic at the end of the school day on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Mountain View Elementary School Principal Karl Kircher (green) helps direct student pick up traffic at the end of the school day on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Staff help direct student pick up traffic at Mountain View Elementary School on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O'Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Mountain View Elementary School Principal Karl Kircher (green) helps direct student pick up traffic at the end of the school day on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Buses line up ahead of dismissal at Mountain View Elementary School on Thursday, September 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. A bond package up for consideration by Kenai Peninsula Borough voters on Oct. 4 would fund improvements to the school’s traffic flow. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Buses line up ahead of dismissal at Mountain View Elementary School on Thursday, September 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. A bond package up for consideration by Kenai Peninsula Borough voters on Oct. 4 would fund improvements to the school’s traffic flow. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Mountain View Elementary School Principal Karl Kircher (green) helps direct student pick up traffic at the end of the school day on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Mountain View Elementary School Principal Karl Kircher (green) helps direct student pick up traffic at the end of the school day on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Mountain View Elementary School Principal Karl Kircher (green) helps direct student pick up traffic at the end of the school day on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Mountain View Elementary School Principal Karl Kircher (green) helps direct student pick up traffic at the end of the school day on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Buses line up ahead of dismissal at Mountain View Elementary School on Thursday, September 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. A bond package up for consideration by Kenai Peninsula Borough voters on Oct. 4 would fund improvements to the school’s traffic flow. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Buses line up ahead of dismissal at Mountain View Elementary School on Thursday, September 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. A bond package up for consideration by Kenai Peninsula Borough voters on Oct. 4 would fund improvements to the school’s traffic flow. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Students wait to be picked up near school buses outside of Mountain View Elementary School on Thursday, September 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. A bond package up for consideration by Kenai Peninsula Borough voters on Oct. 4 would fund improvements to the school’s traffic flow. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Students wait to be picked up near school buses outside of Mountain View Elementary School on Thursday, September 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. A bond package up for consideration by Kenai Peninsula Borough voters on Oct. 4 would fund improvements to the school’s traffic flow. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Bay windows line the outside of Mountain View Elementary School on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. The windows are prone to leaks, school officials say. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion
Bay windows line the outside of Mountain View Elementary School on Thursday. The windows are prone to leaks, school officials say.

Bay windows line the outside of Mountain View Elementary School on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. The windows are prone to leaks, school officials say. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion) Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion Bay windows line the outside of Mountain View Elementary School on Thursday. The windows are prone to leaks, school officials say.

Fall leaves surround the welcome sign at Mountain View Elementary School on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Fall leaves surround the welcome sign at Mountain View Elementary School on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Staff vehicles are parked on the grass behind Mountain View Elementary School on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 in Kenai, Alaska. A bond package up for consideration by Kenai Peninsula Borough voters on Oct. 4 would fund improvements to the school’s traffic flow. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Staff vehicles are parked on the grass behind Mountain View Elementary School on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 in Kenai, Alaska. A bond package up for consideration by Kenai Peninsula Borough voters on Oct. 4 would fund improvements to the school’s traffic flow. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Cones direct student pick up traffic at Mountain View Elementary School on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Cones direct student pick up traffic at Mountain View Elementary School on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

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