San Rafael Elementary Gets High Marks for Morning ‘Valets’

By Mark Mastromatteo

WPRA director

In the years since PUSD’s San Rafael Elementary School has seen its popularity and student population boom, families and neighbors alike have noticed that the traffic around the school has increased significantly. And sometimes that creates problems, particularly at morning drop-off between 7:30 and 8 a.m. on school days.

In the school’s long history, it has evolved from a neighborhood school to a successful award-winning dual immersion school. As such, nearly 500 students attend the pre-K through fifth grade classes. And with that success can come some growing pains.

Schools in residential neighborhoods such as San Rafael can struggle with the combination of narrow streets, limited parking, and parents and neighbors clashing in their hurry to get to whatever is next on their agendas.

“We hear complaints from the neighbors every once in a while, and that’s typical with a school setting like this” remarked Yarma Velázquez, PUSD Board of Education trustee and San Rafael parent.

In fact, the school and its neighbors have not always been on the best of terms since the days when attendance declined and driving drop-offs became the norm. To address this situation San Rafael Elementary has developed a morning “valet” program. As many as five members of the school staff stand at the ready on Nithsdale Road to open car doors and usher students of all ages out of cars and into the school.

“We are here every morning and sometimes the PTA parents help out” said one of the valets. “We have a rough morning here and there, but all in all things run smoothly.”

Also, the school sends emails to parents regularly reminding them not to U-turn after drop off and to respect the parking signs. Also, since traffic can create a bottleneck at the busiest intersections, the school has limited the number of parking spots available in the immediate area. One side of a portion of Nithsdale, San Miguel and Hermosa roads (behind the school) are designated as no-parking or stopping zones between 7 and 9 a.m., and again between 2 and 4 p.m.

While some area residents who don’t have children attending San Rafael may still see traffic and parking as a source of some irritation, the reality that unless they are in a rush between 7 and 7:55 a.m., school parents and neighbors should be able to get in and out of the without a hitch.

Note: A version of this article was originally published in the Spring 2024 issue of the West Pasadena Residents’ Association newsletter.