Dropping kids off at school is always a hectic time; students navigate crosswalks while cars meander through the streets. There is usually an organized chaos about the whole process but there have been some concerns recently over heavy traffic at Ponoka Elementary School (PES).
Ponoka RCMP and administration staff have received complaints about aggressive drivers during school drop-off and pick-up times. Those complaints have prompted police to work with the school and educate motorists during those times. School resource officer Cst. Ryan Koehli and two other officers were at the school Oct. 30 monitoring traffic. “We have received daily complaints from parents,” Koehli said.
There have been reports of near-collisions with pedestrians and vehicles in the school zone and Koehli wants to ensure children make it to school safe. The road along PES can become congested and he suggests motorists have patience during these busy times.
“Bear with the school while changes are happening and all the construction. People are parking in crosswalks and it makes it so the kids can’t see,” explained Koehli.
School council member Layna Palechek was one of the parents concerned with unsafe driving. She was pleased to see police out and feels motorists know rules of the road but they choose not to follow them. “The staff were having to come out here and deal with it.”
While motorists are being asked to be more aware, Koehli also asked that parents educate their children. “Parents could remind their children by reminding them of skills at the crosswalk. Kids as well as parents should be using the crosswalk.”
With the school having Grade 6 this year and play academy, there appears to be even more cars along the school drop-off points, said principal Lois Spate. She has one goal. “Student safety is our number one priority.”
She concurred with Koehli that vehicles parking in the crosswalk is hindering visibility for students. No park zones and fire hydrant zones are also being used, which is also making crossing the street difficult. There are street signs marking crosswalks on 50 Avenue but while 49 Avenue crosswalks are marked on the road, there are no signs above ground.
Spate and vice-principal Nicole Rawlinson were to meet with AMA Nov. 4 to determine if a crossing guard program is ideal for the school.
“It’s not going to happen overnight. There will be a training program if it’s feasible,” said Spate.
She is working closely with the RCMP, parent council and Chris Branbury, occupational health and safety officer with Wolf Creek Public Schools to come up with a solution. “Everybody’s working together to come up with solutions to the problem.