Since signs were posted warning drivers not to park on Reeds Court during school hours, the cars that used to populate the cul de sac leaving it nearly impossible for residents to leave their driveways and creating possible hazards for children playing have disappeared.
“The Reeds Court signs are up and we’re already getting compliance,” Galloway Township Manager Arch Liston said at the council meeting that night.
A resident who wished to remain anonymous said there used to be 50 cars at a time on the street during school hours, but that stopped when the five signs on the court went up last week.
The problem stems from the fact that students at Absegami High School are not permitted to park on the property. Many students would drive to school anyway and park on Reeds Court. Reeds Court branches off Reeds Road, one street over from Absegami. Reeds Road leads to Roland Rogers and Reeds Road elementary schools, as well as Galloway Township Middle School.
Residents from the area raised concerns about this issue during council meetings this year, and the township passed an ordinance stating there would be no parking without a permit on Reeds Court during school hours, between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m.
The township also sent a letter to the Greater Egg Harbor Regional School District requesting it look into the “no parking on school grounds” policy. The Greater Egg Harbor Regional School District is separate from the Galloway Township K-8 School District.
Greater Egg Harbor Regional School District Superintendent Dr. Steve Ciccariello responded to the request in an email dated Sept. 18, responding that the board policy has been in effect for more than 30 years at all district schools, including Absegami, Oakcrest and Cedar Creek.
“The district provides transportation to students in accordance with New Jersey Administrative Code, so students do not have to drive to school,” Ciccariello wrote in the e-mail. “Having been in the district since 1992, and having gone down this road many times, I'm telling you that the Board has no desire to change this policy now or in the immediate future. The Township should exercise their right to tow any vehicles illegally parked on Reeds Road and surrounding streets. The district can assist the Township by communicating this message to students. I will share your letter with the Board of Education.”
Absegami Prinicpal Dr. Jeri-Lynn Gatto told Liston via e-mail on Sept. 19 that she would attempt to have a commercial put on the high school’s television network informing students their cars may be towed if they park in that area.
On Tuesday morning, Gatto said the policy was put in place over 30 years ago as a student safety issue, and the policy still works in that way now. She also said the parking spots that were left empty during the school day need to be left that way to make room for the school buses when it comes time to pick up the students at the end of the day.
On Monday, Oct. 1, the cul de sac remained empty, as did several parking spots on the Absegami lot.
Jim McElwee, Democratic candidate for council in November’s election, questions where the students are parking now. He said the problem may have been solved on Reeds Court, but without the school district changing its policy, he was concerned students would just end up parking somewhere else and creating a problem for a new set of residents.
“I went to the school on a Wednesday afternoon at 1:30 and there were a total of 162 empty spaces,” McElwee said. “For the school district to say they’re just going to continue to do what they do is a disgrace. I hope the public remembers this come election time.”
A week after the signs went up, McElwee said he hadn’t heard of a problem popping up anywhere else.
“All along I said I didn’t think this was the answer, and I don’t understand why the Board of Education won’t change its policy,” McElwee said. “I’m going to continue to monitor the situation, but we won’t know if the problem went somewhere else until someone starts complaining.”
Republican Councilman John Mooney feels the ordinance will do its job on Reeds Court, and that the Galloway Police Department is prepared to handle the problem should it arise elsewhere. He also understands the Board of Education’s reluctance to change its policy. Mooney's seat is up in November's election. He was appointed to the seat this summer, following the resignation in June of Councilman Dennis Kleiner.
“I understand their desire to stay pat,” Mooney said. “We asked them to change their policy and they didn’t do that. It’s not our place to dictate to them that they have to change their policy. We can only react and one way to do that is with this ordinance.”