New Jersey Road Charter School Seeks Permit to Add Students

As city commissioners begin considering allowing more students at a charter school on New Jersey Road, Commissioner Bill Read said constituents are starting to raise concerns about traffic levels on the road after another private school got permission to start classes nearby.

City commissioners are scheduled to hear first reading today of an ordinance that would allow Magnolia Montessori Academy, 1540 New Jersey Road, to modify its conditional use permit to increase the number of students from 120 to 185 and build a 4,500 square-foot classroom building.

“I am getting calls now about traffic stacking up on New Jersey,” Commissioner Read said when commissioners previewed their agenda on Friday.

Today’s first reading is a formality involving the city attorney reading the title of the ordinance aloud. The actual discussion, public comment and vote is scheduled to take place on June 17.

Last November the City Commission approved another conditional use permit that allowed a private Christian school, Geneva Classical Academy, to move this fall from Lakeland Highlands Road to 1736 New Jersey Road, just to the south of Magnolia Montessori.

Schools must have conditional use permits to locate in residential areas.

Magnolia Montessori’s existing conditional use permit was issued in 2013 when the public charter school opened on the 5.7-acre New Jersey Road campus of Presbyterian Chapel in the Grove.

Both schools are on large campuses built to accommodate church traffic so there is ample area where traffic can queue on the campuses rather than in the street.

As part of their conditional use permits, both schools are forbidden to allow parents to drop off or pick up students on the roadway and are required to have a school resource officer or similarly trained traffic control worker onsite during student drop-off and pick-up times.

According to a staff report, morning drop-off times at the schools do not overlap, however there is a 20-minute period between 2:45 to 3:05 p.m. when students from both schools will be picked up.

“Should traffic congestion become an issue, Magnolia Montessori Academy has stated that they are willing to push their afternoon pick-up time back so that it does not overlap with Geneva Academy’s,” the report said.

Chuck Barmby, the city’s transportation and development director, told commissioners on Friday that traffic analysis showed that the small increase in Magnolia Montessori traffic will not warrant requiring a traffic light nor a left-turn lane on New Jersey Road.

However, Geneva Classical Academy, which had 160 students last fall, was required to add a left turn lane. And when the student population surpasses 175 it will be required to conduct a traffic study to see if it must make other accommodations. Geneva’s maximum student count is 250.

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