Parents and students of Parksville’s Springwood Elementary now feel safer crossing a high-traffic intersection where a child was injured last month.
School District 69 (Qualicum) crossing guards have been stationed at the Despard/Moilliet intersection in Parksville to help students cross before and after the school bell. The crossing guards, both educational assistants who’ve recently completed a two-day traffic control course in Nanaimo, are contracted until spring break 2021. Following that, their necessity at that location will be revisited by the school board.
Concerns about safety at the intersection, located less than 500 metres from Springwood Elementary, have been ongoing as it is close to a new grocery store currently under construction as well as the Alberni Highway. Concerns were exacerbated when a child was stuck while crossing a marked crosswalk on Nov. 13.
Crossing guard Sue Ashton said they are “most definitely” necessary to maintain traffic and pedestrian safety.
“So much traffic comes out here. And with big trucks, they have to come out (into the intersection) to see,” she said. “It’s got to be rectified, it’s just a big danger.”
Springwood Elementary principal Lisa Pedersen-Skene said the guards will be there “until safe improvements are made” by the city. She remains hopeful the city has “things in place” before the contracts expire. Soon, she would like to see the school district no longer be financially responsible for maintaining traffic in that location.
“It’s really worrisome for us,” she said. “And we don’t need another accident. One was too many.”
Pedersen-Skene has talked with several parents after the accident on Nov. 13 and many told her their children were scared and nervous using the intersection. Although now she said she sees more families walking to school and noticed an increasing use of that intersection since the school sent out emails to parents advising of the crossing guards.
“I think kids needed to see it and know that it was staying. Kids just needed some time to get used to it, and just process the accident,” she said.
Pedersen-Skene hopes the city will install at least a flashing crosswalk, but isn’t sure what specific rules and clearance that might entail.
Six days after the child was struck at Despard and Moilliet, the City of Parksville issued a release about safety at that specific intersection.
The city stated ongoing development planning includes a professional traffic assessment, which after review, concluded the existing configuration would “be enough to move traffic and pedestrians without significant delay or safety conflict.”
They have initiated a review of both the school zone and the intersection and the release read the study will confirm if the assumptions and conditions relied upon in the initial assessment are accurate, or if further upgrades are required.
“The intersection at Despard and Moilliet is not located within the school area/school zone; however, the safety and number of pedestrians is a critical consideration of the intersection evaluation. The city continues to monitor this area and will adjust the intersection as appropriate to accommodate actual conditions.”
According to the superintendent of School District 69 (Qualicum), Dr. Keven Elder, parents from Springwood Elementary intend to make a presentation during the board’s public Zoom meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 15. In an email to PQB News, he said the board currently has a motion planned for the same meeting on Dec. 15, to call on the city for more support, “given that the challenges come primarily from the large amount of construction and development at that corner.”