UNION — A new parking lot is putting the brakes on a traffic problem in the Union School District.

The paved lot, which features a circular roadway and decorative rock features, is in front of the east side of Union Elementary School’s S.E. Miller building and was installed in August.

“It has been making a significant and very positive impact,” said Union School District Superintendent Carter Wells.

The parking lot’s roadway, combined with installation of the doorway on the east side of the S.E. Miller building, is making it possible for parents to drop their children off and then pick them up without driving into the Union High School parking lot.

“It is making things so much safer,” said Nicole Gilbride, the parent of a Union Elementary School student.

For years the narrow roadway between the S.E. Miller building’s south entrance and Union High School’s north entrance had been the primary place where parents dropped off and picked up their children. The site was far from ideal because grade school parents were sharing the roadway with high school parent drivers and high school student drivers looking for a place to park.

“Now all three are not converging at the same time,” Wells said.

The installation of the parking lot and the creation of the east-side entrance were paid for with money from a $4 million bond school district voters approved in 2018 for capital construction and renovation and money from a $4 million state matching grant.

Prior to the creation of the east entrance the S.E. Miller building did not have a doorway recognized as the main entry point.

“Students would come into the building from all over,” Union Elementary School Principal Chris Dunlap said.

Today, though, virtually all of Union Elementary School’s students enter through the east doorway each morning. This gives Dunlap the chance to greet them by name each day. Dunlap relishes this opportunity.

“It is my favorite part of the day. It helps me make connections,” he said.

Wells says Dunlap excels in this and many other roles as principal.

“He is a great individual who does wonderful things for our school district,” Wells said.

Karen Wing, the mother of three children at Union Elementary, noted that the new parking lot is not only reducing congestion between the S.E. Miller building and UHS but also on Main Street, which passes by the east entrances of both. Wing explained that traffic on Main Street before and after school is now more spread out because many vehicles are being drawn into the S.E. Miller parking lot. Before many more vehicles were converging on Main Street at the entrance to the high school parking lot.

The S.E. Miller building is where students in kindergarten through second grade are taught.

Students in grades three to six attend classes in the J.F. Hutchinson building, just north of S.E. Miller. Each morning most of Union Elementary’s students enter the S.E. Miller building before school to eat breakfast in its multipurpose room and to attend a brief assembly.

The installation of the parking lot and the east entrance is one of many projects completed or being completed with the help of bond funds. They include major renovations of the main entry into UHS’s gym, which will make it much easier for the physically challenged to get into the gym, an elevator for those with mobility issues on the south side of UHS, major ventilation and heating system improvements in buildings and much more.

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General assignment reporter

Beats include the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.

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