Riverhead Charter School Superintendent Raymond Ankrum starts and ends each school day directing traffic on Middle Country Road. Photo: Denise Civiletti

The State Department of Transportation will undertake a new study to look at ways to improve safety on Middle Country Road near the Riverhead Charter School, State Senator Ken LaValle said today.

After the Riverhead Police Department stopped providing a crossing guard or police officer at the Riverhead Charter School, the charter school superintendent Raymond Ankrum began donning an orange vest and directing traffic at the school’s entrance at the start and end of each school day. See: “With no crossing guard, charter school superintendent takes traffic control into his own hands.” (Oct. 9.)

The posted speed limit is 50 mph on the state road in front of the school and Ankrum says it’s difficult for buses to enter and exit the school campus.

Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said the town has asked the state to lower the speed limit there but the state DOT refused. The posted 50 MPH zone is “crazy,” the chief said.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, who sits on the town’s traffic safety committee, said she believes the speed limit near the school should be 20 MPH.

There are no signs indicating it’s a school zone, Giglio said.

LaValle has asked the DOT to look again at reducing the speed limit in the area, something he said seems to be needed. The DOT will alos undertake a new study of traffic patterns there, since a traffic study hasn’t been done since 2009.

“As an immediate action, the DOT will be moving temporary signage to the location over the next few days better alert drivers of the presence of buses, pedestrians and the school,” LaValle said. The agency will also contact the police and request a physical presence during the beginning and end of the school day, the senator said.

The senator learned of the situation outside the charter school Oct. 9 when RiverheadLOCAL contacted his office to ask for comment, an aide to LaValle said. He was not contacted by the school directly.

Ankrum started an online petition asking the governor to help him get a crossing guard at the school to direct traffic. No children arrive at or leave the school on foot.

“I will keep the district abreast of any new developments that arise and share the results of the study when they are available,” LaValle said.

Town officials have suggested that the school take advantage of cross-easements with adjacent properties to allow buses to enter and exit the campus via Edwards Avenue.

“That comes at a cost that they want us to absorb. That’s not feasible,” Ankrum said. The town should be “contacting the state on our behalf to let them know the dangers of not properly marking our school as a school zone, not having flashing lights, and a lower speed limit,” Ankrum said.

“We aren’t into the town muscling us to do something they should have already done themselves. If they are interested in obtaining grants in our behalf, sure, but this isn’t a 100-percent Riverhead Charter School issue,” he said. “We’re — unfortunately — the ones that have to deal with it.”

Ankrum is asking charter school parents to attend the upcoming Riverhead Town Board meeting on Tuesday.

“The time has come for us to make more noise and step up our advocacy,” Ankrum said in a Facebook post urging parents to attend the meeting. “We need to let them know how we feel about the safety of our students.”

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.