There were more students on the roads leading to Oak Hills High School this morning -- for the first time, the school welcomed a senior class in addition to the three classes of underclassmen -- but otherwise, things were much the same as last year, when the school first opened.
"The cars were backed up at least 30 deep several times in the morning," said Jim Babinksi, an Oak Hills resident who lives near the high school. "The thing that disturbs me the most is people walking in the dust and the cars don't seem disturbed."
Although there's a paved official route to the high school -- Escondido Road to Ranchero Road -- the enormous crush of motorists heading to the high school, especially during the first week of a new school year, leads to many spilling over onto the unpaved El Centro Road and Coyote Trail as alternate routes. But the dirt roads near the high school were never intended to handle hundreds of cars traveling across them each day. Beyond the huge ruts worn in the road, causing manholes to stick several inches out of the roadway in places, the traffic generates huge dust clouds that hang in the air long after school has started.
"It's about an hour, especially in the morning, when you have no wind," said Babinksi. "It was a bad situation, especially after school. ... "I could see kids walking and bicycling home and the cars were still zipping through there and creating a lot of dust."
"We are encouraging parents to use the paved roads," said David McLaughlin, the Hesperia Unified School District's Assistant Superintendent of Business Services. "We put in millions of dollars for a signal and widening the road all around campus."
But the economic downturn means the district has no money for further road improvements, he said.
"We're in the business of educating kids, not building roads," McLaughlin. "We'd be more than willing to put in a bike lane or a walk lane, to make the passage safe for kids, but beyond that, we're encouraging people to use the paved roads."
There will soon be one more paved road for commuting Bulldogs, at least.
The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors will vote to open the bidding process to pave El Centro Road at their August 24 meeting, David Zook, the spokesman for First District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, said Monday afternoon. The bidding process should take about a month to complete, and paving can begin by October.
"They still may have the issue of the cold weather," since asphalt can't be laid down in temperatures colder than 55 degrees Fahrenheit, said Zook, but "they should at least have the first layers of asphalt down, and then they'll cap it in the spring."
The spring will also see a flood control project on El Centro, to deal with water run-off from Oak Hills High School.
"In the interim, they're going to be watering to keep the dust down."
But there's less good news about Coyote Trail.
"There's about a dozen right of way properties we need to acquire," for the purposes of widening the road, Zook said. "We're having some difficulty, because there's some absentee property owners."
Worst-case scenario, it could take years to get all the property acquired and Coyote paved.
But by Thanksgiving, motorists heading to Oak Hills High School will have another paved option.
"Possibly even by Halloween," said Zook.
"That's half the battle, anyway, since a lot of cars use El Centro," said Babinski. "It's a really bad situation out there."
Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.