The SD308 Board of Education has yet another difficult decision to make concerning the need to assure the safety of students entering and exiting its largest elementary school – Lakewood Creek in Montgomery.
This past week, Jodi Ancel, school principal, and Derrick Berlin, the district’s director of transportation, told the board of daily traffic problems on the school property and the adjoining streets and of the schools’ students having to navigate a maze of cars and motor vehicles to enter the school each morning.
Ancel and Berlin also noted that during the past school year, two students were injured by motor vehicles on their way home from school, five traffic accidents occurred during drop-off or pickup times and four altercations were reported in the parking lot as the result of motorists bypassing other vehicles. Sadly, they also told the board that school staffers have been routinely mistreated while attempting to direct the flow of traffic on school property.
The two officials presented a plan to remedy the problem through the construction of a vehicle staging lot immediately north of the existing parking lot, just off Lakewood Creek Drive. They estimated the cost for the construction of the lot at $220,000. And that’s the problem – the school district is facing a severe budget crunch which has prompted district officials to layoff over 40 teachers and support staff and boost student fees for the 2018-19 school year.
Board members rightly expressed concern over the price tag for the staging lot project and questioned whether Ancel and Berlin had considered other, less costly options to remedy the problem.
In considering their decision on whether or not to proceed with the project, we believe the board should prioritize student safety ahead of the district’s bottom line. Board members and administrators should re-examine the district’s current capital spending plans with an eye towards finding the funds necessary for the staging lot project. Yes, we understand the district is facing a deficit, but if we had to choose we would take a little more red ink in the budget over a student being injured or worse attempting to walk between cars in the parking lot or on one of the crowded streets adjoining the school.
The board should also remember Ancel’s comment: “...the safety of our children is the most important thing in the world to parents, to district administrators, to building administrators.”