As Harford County officials prepare to sell at auction a more than 130-year-old brick building on East Gordon Street in Bel Air, parents of children attending the adjacent Bel Air Elementary School are dealing with a slightly different dismissal traffic pattern from the previous school year.
"It's going to be auctioned by the county, and a private owner will own it soon," Bel Air Police Chief Leo Matrangola said Tuesday of the former Harford County Public Schools headquarters.
During the spring of 2014, Harford County Public Schools and Bel Air police directed parents picking up their children to the lot next to the Gordon Street building, which is adjacent to the elementary school's athletic fields. Other than use for parking by a handful of Bel Air Elementary employees, the lot was closed to all drivers other than those who were there for the daily 4 p.m. dismissal.
This year, dismissal traffic must line up along East Gordon, but drivers cannot enter the parking lot; school staff will walk the children to their parents who are waiting on the street, Matrangola explained. The town previously banned waiting and parking on Lee Street in front of the elementary school because of too much congestion during dismissal.
The chief noted the Gordon Street property will not be covered by county insurance once it is sold.
"We don't want to use the lot now and switch back to the curb," he explained. "We want to get the parents used to the curbside pickup."
Matrangola said the new system went into effect when the 2014-2015 school year started Monday and police cadets will help direct traffic during dismissal. He said parents will continue to drop off their children at the Lee Street entrance in the morning.
A town parking enforcement officer was informing several drivers parked in the lot before dismissal Tuesday that they could only be on Gordon Street.
Jillian Lader, manager of communications for the school system, confirmed that "parents and guardians who are picking up students may do so curbside on Gordon Street."
"It is being done in order to determine a long-term dismissal plan for the school that is not dependent on the use of the Gordon Street lot, as we understand its status and ownership may change," she added in an email.
Deborah Henderson, Harford County's director of procurement, said they are still discussing the fate of the property.
"We are meeting to discuss auctioning off the property; however, the date has not yet been determined," she said in an email.