Thursday, October 23, 2014

Snow removal aids safety near school

The removal of snowbanks along the west side of Keating Avenue near J.W. Walker School has improved the safety for students walking to and from there, but the school council still would like to see a sidewalk installed as a permanent safety measure.
“In the short-term, we were asking that the snowbanks be knocked down so that the children are still able to walk along the side of the street . . . and don’t have to climb over snowbanks to in order to avoid traffic,” said Anne Renaud, who sits on the school council.

The snowbanks were removed by the Town of Fort Frances last week and a school employee has indicated “it’s not too bad now.”
But Renaud stressed it’s only a temporary solution.
“We’ve now been able to make safety a priority for students who bused, and the ‘Kiss ‘N Ride’ has provided additional safety for students being dropped off and picked up,” she said.
“But kids who are walking are still not doing so in a safe way.
“It’s always been a problem but now it’s come to the forefront and it’s time to act,” she added.
The town’s Traffic Safety Committee had asked that the town help pay for a sidewalk, citing students needed to be able to get off the road and take a safe path to get to and from school.
But council agreed during a budget meeting Jan. 20 that if the local public school board won’t help pay for the sidewalk, neither would the town.
The Operations and Facilities executive committee decided the town only would participate as a partner with the school board—and if homeowners
affected by the proposed sidewalk agreed to having it built in front of their property.
The Rainy River District School Board’s finance committee had indicated to the town that while it agreed the sidewalk “would be beneficial to the safety of the students,” the portion of the sidewalk being requested does not abut school board property.
The total cost of the proposed sidewalk is about $65,000.
“I am definitely disappointed that there wasn’t an agreement that could be made in order to get a sidewalk there,” Renaud said upon hearing the outcome of the council decision.
She noted the school is continuing to look at alternatives to keep students safe as they walk to and from school.
“They are looking at other options to redirect students in a different direction,” she remarked.
“And to educate everyone about safe ways to travel.”
But Renaud indicated some parents are not allowing their children to walk because they don’t feel there is a safe way to go.
“And that’s really unfortunate.”
One of those parents is Anna Cunningham, who submitted a letter to the Town of Fort Frances regarding her concern.
“My two children attend J.W. Walker School and use the ‘Kiss ’N Ride’ program,” she wrote.
“Potentially, they could walk to their grandparents’ house after school, but we will not allow it as we value their safety and consider the route along Keating Avenue to be extremely unsafe for young pedestrians.”
She indicated her husband, who drops off and picks up the students, witnessed a close call where a young boy lost his balance while walking over freshly-plowed snow and fell into the street.
Cunningham agreed that removing the snowbanks has helped.
“If there is a safe path for my children to walk that is off of the street, I would feel more comfortable to allow them to walk to and from school,” she remarked, though adding she feels a sidewalk would be the best solution.
“[A sidewalk] would be ideal in terms of safety for our young people, citizens, taxpayers, and visitors,” Renaud said.
Still, she also said she understands the financial strain facing the town and realizes it might not be feasible at this time.
Renaud is hopeful that some day in the future, a sidewalk will be able to be installed in the area to improve safety.
“The snowbank removal isn’t all we’re looking for but it is a start,” she reasoned.

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