Fishhawk Community takes a big hit after Valrico Academy’s “Car Riders only” rule

Cars are backed up all the down Fishhawk Blvd. This is caused by Valrico Academy's “Car riders only” rule which was implemented this school year.

Debra Garcia

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Debra Garcia, Online Editor-in-Chief

   Since the beginning of the school year, there has been a large number of traffic-related issues down Boyette road, leading up to Fishhawk Blvd. Cars are backed up every morning and afternoon, all the way to the Publix on Alafia Commons and into the roundabouts near Stowers Elementary School. 

  It might be surprising that the source of these traffic issues is the Valrico Lake Advantage Academy, more specifically its “only-car-riders” rule. This rule only allows students to be dropped off before school and picked up after school, not allowing walkers or bikers. 

   During the 2020-2021 school year, the rule was implemented because a large number of students were eLearning, and therefore would not need to go on campus. This rule is still in place during this school year, with the entire school on campus. This forces parents of Valrico Academy students to drive and pick up their children from school, even when the students could walk home. It is rumored that this rule is still in place because of COVID-19, suggesting that keeping students in vehicles will lower COVID-19 rates. Though, by some simple research, the numbers clearly do not add up. 

   The traffic issues caused by Valrico Lake Advantage Academy not only affects the families with children that attend Valrico Academy but everyone in the Fishhawk community. Everyone coming and going from Newsome High School, Stowers Elementary, Bell Creek Academy and all citizens that need to go up to I-75 or Bell Shoals get stuck in traffic. This traffic usually lasts from 7:15-8:30 a.m. and from 3:15-4:30 p.m. Combined with the normal Fishhawk traffic, this causes students to be late to school every morning, whether they drive themselves, their parents drive them or they just take the bus.    

   However, all hope is not lost. A few weeks into the school year, Fishhawk resident Allison Buchholz started a petition on Change.org called “Get rid of Mandatory Car Line for Valrico Academy- no more FH Traffic FH Problems.” Buchholz started this petition to take initiative, as no one else was taking action. “I believe that if we expect change, someone needs to take action,” says Buchholz. 

   The petition currently has 729 out of the 1000 signatures needed and has already attracted attention, as signs have been put up around Valrico Academy, calling the rule a “traffic infringement.” The petition was also submitted to the Hillsborough County Board of Directors. Buchholz hopes that the county overturns Valrico Academy’s rule and restores Fishhawk to its normal traffic patterns. 

   Until these issues are resolved, there are many ways to avoid the Valrico Academy traffic in both the mornings and afternoons. The most obvious is to leave earlier or later depending on the time of day; but if that is not possible, there are more options. If one needs to go up to Bell Shoals, drive up Lithia Pinecrest. If one needs to get to I-75, go up Rhodine road, up Balm Riverview to Highway 301 and all the way to the I-75 exit. For those who live in Fishhawk West and need to get to Newsome, drive down South Boyette, pass Channing, up Lithia Pinecrest and down Fishhawk Blvd. 

   The Fishhawk community has been largely affected by the traffic problems caused by the Valrico Lake Advantage Academy. What Fishhawk citizens can do now is simple: sign Buchholz’s petition, call the school board or email Valrico Academy secretaries to get their attention and awareness of the problem.  

To sign the petition:

https://www.change.org/p/parents-of-valrico-academy-get-rid-of-mandatory-car-line-for-valrico-academy-no-more-fh-traffic-problems

Both roundabouts on Boyette road next to Stowers Elementary are back up every morning. Due to the “Car Riders only” rule, Fishhawk citizens have to wait for 20 minutes every day to pass the traffic and arrive at their destinations.
Debra Garcia