Board ensuring safety in face of roadwork

Construction at Highway 11 and Keating Avenue is creating concern among parents and school administrators for the safety of children attending J.W. Walker School, it was reported at the Rainy River District School Board meeting last night.
“We recognize there has been a tremendous amount of concern,” said Superintendent of Business Laura Mills. “We have had a number of telephone calls from parents.”
While the construction is going on, an additional bus has been hired to pick up and drop off students who would normally walk to school through that intersection, she noted.
Trustee Martin Darrah expressed concern for the school buses who may have difficulty maneuvering around that corner due to lane reductions.
“You have to go into the oncoming lane,” he noted.
Mills explained that on the first day of school, the gate on Parker Avenue between Walker and Fort Frances High School was opened during peak hours so bus drivers could avoid the construction altogether.
The gate had to be monitored to ensure only buses were using the road, and not parents and students in vehicles. Excessive traffic through that area could be dangerous to small children at Walker, she said.
Mills herself observed the traffic both at the Highway 11-Keating intersection and on Parker Avenue.
“Based on what I had observed, we decided to discontinue opening the gate,” she said, noting many buses were opting to go through the intersection regardless, and that most buses did not appear to have any difficulty making the corner.
Darrah, who is himself a licensed bus driver, suggested perhaps not all the bus drivers had been made aware of the alternative.
“If I had the option of going through that intersection or going through the gate, I’d take the gate any day of the week,” he said.
The board agreed to contact the bus drivers and operators and ask them what their preference is in terms of safety.
Director of Education Warren Hoshizaki said they would also consider approaching the town and asking if the operable lanes at that intersection could be widened somewhat.
Construction is expected to be completed there by mid- to late-October.
Also at last night’s meeting, the board:
•passed a balanced budget of $37,292,514 for the 2005/06 school year;
•passed a motion accepting Jack McMaster as the new director of education, to begin before Sept. 30; and,
•conferred Recognition of Excellence awards to Atikokan High School and members of the committee for the 40th anniversary of the Outers Program, as well as the students, staff, and community volunteers at Robert Moore School who participated in the Learning Garden.
The board will hold a special meeting on Sept. 14 at 7 p.m., while its next regular meeting will be on Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. Both meetings will be held at Robert Moore School.