Parents cross over lack of school guard for East Kensington
Parents at East Kensington Elementary say their efforts to improve the safety of students and others who cross 184 Street to get to school are hitting roadblock after roadblock.
For at least five years they’ve asked for help – including for a crossing guard to be assigned to the 2795 184 St. school – but say that every year, the request has been brushed aside.
“Since I’ve been here, this has been an issue,” Jacquie McLean, president of the small school’s Parent Advisory Council, said last week.
“Every group of parents that has come through has tried to pursue this. We get the run-around.”
The latest effort includes an offer for parents at the 50-student school to fundraise for the cost of a crossing guard – an offer that they say was turned down flat.
But school district spokesman Doug Strachan told Peace Arch News the solution is not necessarily that simple.
“There are safety considerations, and other traffic considerations and so forth,” Strachan said.
“It’s not necessarily as straight-forward as just saying let’s get a crossing guard out there and that’s it, it’s done, it’s safe now.”
Parents say a many motorists do not obey the 30 km/h speed limit and often don’t stop for children and parents, even when the amber lights of the pedestrian-activated crosswalk are flashing.
“They don’t care,” parent Dannie Caron said, describing drivers who have become irate with her for holding up traffic so children can cross.
Parent Sonja Kroecher began her push for the school district and city to take action in December, shortly after her daughter, Marissa, started at the heritage school and was nearly hit by drivers who “just bailed right past her.”
Kroecher said her concerns have been passed from official to official and department to department, without any firm commitment for action. It has even been suggested that students and parents aren’t doing enough to ensure their own safety, she said.
Kroecher said she was promised in January that a “full operational and safety review” of the crosswalk will be done, and Strachan confirmed Wednesday that it will take place, although exactly when is unclear.
Other steps planned include a city review of the site that will look at such things as traffic volume and speed; the principal has also asked for stepped-up police enforcement, Strachan said.
For longtime school trustee Laurae McNally, addressing the problem can’t happen soon enough.
It has been a concern since her own son attended East Kensington “decades” ago, and she encourages action on it every time the heritage advisory committee meets, she said.
She described what she has observed of driver behaviour along that stretch of road as “unbelievable.”
“There are a lot of just ordinary citizens that whiz through,” she said. “It’s like they’re oblivious to (the school zone).”
Last fall, one driver was clocked travelling at more than 90 km/h, she noted.
Friday afternoon, one driver who was clearly travelling over the limit even stuck his tongue out at a young student who was helping Caron take note of offenders.
Another had to brake abruptly to stop for parents and children in the crosswalk. Both vehicles’ licence-plate numbers were among about 20 Caron jotted down over the course of 45 minutes March 8 that will be shared with RCMP.
McNally said growth will only continue to exacerbate the issue, particularly as the City of Surrey presses forward with its Neighbourhood Concept Plan.
“It’s a real concern. People need to take notice and pay attention to safety for school children.”
Strachan could not predict what kind of solution may be reached for East Kensington, but said traffic calming, a pedestrian-controlled stop light and crossing guard would likely all be considered.
He said the goal is to find a practical solution, and that a crossing guard may or may not be determined the best answer.
Strachan also said he wasn’t aware of concerns prior to the current school year.
“My understanding from the principal was this was something that picked up steam this year.”
McNally said East Kensington’s small population is irrelevant.
“We take safety of all of our students… seriously. Size doesn’t even enter into it,” she said.