A decision by the Gallatin County Commission to abandon Monforton School Road drew a supportive crowd Tuesday, including residents who will now need to take an alternate route to and from their homes.
With the unanimous vote Tuesday to abandon the road, drivers will still be able to turn onto Monforton School Road at Huffine and Baxter lanes but will no longer be permitted to pass through the school zone, said Charlotte Mills, county clerk and recorder.
"It will no longer be a through road," Mills said.
Vehicles at both north and south ends will have to turn around to exit. Circle F Trail, located east of Monforton School Road and which services the Middle Creek Parklands subdivision, is the new public access for the area, Mills said.
Lynne Scalia, principal and superintendent of Monforton School, said Tuesday that the commissioners' vote to abandon about 900 feet of the road that passes by the K-8 school would help the school make the campus "vehicle free" and safer for students.
It will also facilitate a planned expansion to meet the growing demands of the community, she said.
"It allows us to have a campus that doesn't have a road going through it," Scalia said.
Drop-off and pick-up times at the school have been always been hairy, Scalia said. Busses and parent vehicles compete for space on the road, and the current parking lot is too small, she said. Some vehicles park on neighbor's lawns when there are no available spaces.
Preliminary plans to build an addition to the school, which Scalia said is no longer large enough to serve the expanding number of students, also include a proposed annex across the street from the main building on 10 acres donated by developers Ken and Nancy Flikkema.
The athletic field is also located across from the main building.
"Whether or not we expand, we will have to be moving children and parents back and forth," she said.
Initiated in 2005, the road abandonment petition was signed, and subsequently reaffirmed, by 10 landowners in the area, Mills said. The school board, the main driver behind the petition, has been working to finalize details since that time.
About a dozen people spoke in favor of the abandonment Tuesday, including homeowners and parents of Monforton students. All cited safety as their main concern.
Dennis Arsenault, who lives on the north side of Monforton School Road, said he will have to drive further out of his way to exit his neighborhood with the removal of the public access.
"But that minor inconvenience is really mute," compared to providing a safe environment for kids and parents, he said. "I'd like to see the road closed as soon as possible."
Several people said they would also like to see a stoplight installed at the intersection of Huffine Lane and Cobb Hill Road to improve traffic safety in the area.
Tamzin Brown, who lives on Monforton School Road, said she hoped the commissioners would contribute some "political backbone" to talks about a light with the Montana Department of Transportation, which controls Huffine Lane.
"I think it's insane to close the road and not have a light there," she said.
Commissioners said they have spoken with MDT about the traffic light but have been told that that it isn't warranted at this time.
"We need to keep it up," Commissioner Bill Murdock said. "It needs a light there. We're not finished yet."
Scalia said the school intends to install cul-de-sacs and a fire-access gate at the southern end of the road by this fall to facilitate parent and bus traffic. Long-term plans include a paved bus drop and separate parking and drive-through areas for parents to drop kids off.
The Monforton School District Board will ask voters to approve a bond issue this fall to finance improvements and the expansion.
Lauren Russell can be reached at email@example.com or 582-2635.