By Alex Lippa and Mike LaBella Staff Writers
---- — HAVERHILL — For several years, a sign has stood at the end of the driveway to the Consentino and Silver Hill schools, mandating that drivers turn right when exiting the driveway.
But until recently, police had no way to enforce the rule.
Because there was no law on the city books backing up the sign, all police could do was warn drivers who broke the rule, but officers could not issue tickets.
School officials said it is unclear why the signs were erected without an ordinance to back them up.
A “right turn only” sign has existed at the end of the school driveway for several years, according to Consentino Principal Stephen Sierpina.
“It’s been here since before I got here,” said Sierpina, who is in his third year as principal there.
The sign was erected to alleviate traffic congestion during morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up of students at the two schools.
Sierpina said that from Consentino and Silver Hill schools, there are 1,500 students leaving the area at roughly the same time, leading to heavy traffic on Washington Street.
School officials said once they realized there was no law on the books to support the signs, they went to work.
“We started the process to get the law enforced last year,” Sierpina said. “For whatever reason, it took a long time.”
City Councilor Michael Hart said the council voted unanimously to pass the ordinance earlier this month. He said the rule went into effect immediately, so now police have enforcement power. The rule is enforced between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. while school is in session.
“There is an abundance of cars around all of our schools at dismissal time, and 99 percent of the people are very cooperative and helpful in understanding,” Superintendent James Scully said. “But on some days, like rainy days, some want to drive up to the door to get their children. So we’ve had to establish traffic measures in cooperation with police due to the small minority of people who aren’t conscious of the fact that hundreds of young children are being dismissed.
“So what we tried to do is build traffic patterns with cones around some of our schools,’’ he said. “However, at Consentino, because it’s the largest school in the city outside of the high school and has the greatest volume of traffic, making a right turn only during morning drop-off and at the end of the day helps alleviate congestion.’’
“Our priority is making sure that everyone is safe,” Sierpina said. “We want to make sure kids crossing the street in both the morning and afternoons are safe. At the same time, we want to keep the traffic flow moving and make sure that drivers are safe.