Public input sought on school sidewalk issue

Public input sought on school sidewalk issue

The local public school board is hoping to find a sidewalk solution for pupils walking to Sarnia’s King George VI elementary school.

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The 260-pupil school was the subject of city council debate in 2022, with some parents seeking a sidewalk extension on O’Dell Avenue, to better protect children who otherwise walk to and from school on the road.

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Neighbors were concerned about the sidewalk cutting through driveways, and losing mature trees.

Council recommended then that the sides talk it out — there had been no school board public consultation — and come up with some sort of deal, instead of going ahead with the $55,000 sidewalk extension for the street’s south.

The sides will get that chance when Lambton Kent District school board hosts an open house on the traffic and safety issue at the school from 5 to 7 pm Nov. 29.

The board hired infrastructure consultant AECOM this spring to study traffic, including busing, drop-offs and walkers, and come up with potential solutions, said Brian McKay, the board’s associate corporate services director.

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They’ll present those options and take questions at the meeting, he said. “Then, depending on the input from the public, go from there with a recommendation to the city.”

City staff have been kept informed, he said, adding student safety is the board’s top concern.

A diagram from a Chatham-Kent Administrative School Services report shows walking routes to and from Sarnia’s King George VI elementary school. CLASS and Lambton Kent District school board have asked the city to install more sidewalk on O’Dell Avenue. jpg, SO

“We have a number of families that are in the walk area that would use O’Dell normally; however, based on the fact that there’s no sidewalk (even though there is a crossing guard at O’Dell and Colborne Road) that does reduce the number of walkers, just due to the safety aspect,” he said.

About 140 students, or 55 per cent, are in the zone where they walk or get dropped off, he said.

“That there is no sidewalk impacts how many students actually do walk there, which then only increases the traffic again at the school for drop-off.”

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A school council representative last year recounted “close calls” when buses rounded the corner near pedestrians.

Broadly, the board’s preferred proposal, identified via AECOM’s $22,000 contract, includes building a sidewalk on the edge of the road, McKay said, avoiding trees and light standards close to the curb.

Walking paths also could be marked on the road, he said, or measures introduced to slow traffic.

“Obviously, any opportunity to put a sidewalk in and actually physically get your walkers. . . up off the street is always the No. 1 option,” McKay said, noting winter snow adds to the concern.

Hopes are to get good feedback at the public meeting before approaching city council a second time, he said. “That’s the real push for the open house.”

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