Crossing guard and educational assistant, Sue Ashton, helps Springwood Elementary students safely cross at Despard Avenue and Moilliet Street in Parksville on Dec. 9, 2020. (Mandy Moraes photo)

Crossing guard and educational assistant, Sue Ashton, helps Springwood Elementary students safely cross at Despard Avenue and Moilliet Street in Parksville on Dec. 9, 2020. (Mandy Moraes photo)

School District 69 seeks help from City of Parksville dealing with ‘horror show’ intersection

Officials concerned for safety of children

Both parents and School District 69 (Qualicum) board members remain “deeply concerned” about pedestrian and student safety at a high-traffic intersection where a youngster was struck and injured last month.

During the school board meeting on Dec. 15, trustees voted unanimously in favour of approaching the City of Parksville and asking they address pedestrian safety at the Moilliet Street and Despard Avenue intersection.

Earlier this month, the Springwood Elementary School Parent Advisory Council (SES PAC) wrote a letter to the city, dated Dec. 11, detailing their similar concerns.

The PAC letter read that they “are calling on the City of Parksville to take accountability and provide immediate increased safety measures at the intersection of Moilliet Street and Despard Avenue.” It continued to read that construction areas around the the high-traffic intersection and Alberni Highway require additional safety strategies. The intersection, adjacent to school property and used by children and families, has rapidly surpassed their comfort level of “let’s wait and see if it gets better.”

READ MORE: Crossing guards now stationed to assist youngsters at ‘worrisome’ Parksville intersection

In their letter, SES PAC wrote that they consider it an obligation by the city to “utilize their resources and take the lead” in making road safety a priority on city streets, specifically ones adjacent to schools.

“As our community grows, we are confident that we can continue to work together to ensure our kids have a safe route to school.”

District 69 (Qualicum) crossing guards have been stationed at the Moilliet/Despard intersection 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.

Andrea Richardson, a director of the SES PAC, said she has walked her two children to Springwood Elementary for nearly five years, taking them by the Moilliet/Despard crossing.

“That intersection has always been bad, partly because there’s just two stop signs,” she said during the SES PAC’s presentation to SD69 on Dec. 15.

“There’s been no consideration for pedestrians of any sort, especially not for students.”

Amanda Hastings, treasurer for SES PAC, said the development in that area is “growing at an alarming rate.”

“The dangerous mix of increased pedestrian and vehicle traffic, plus the distraction of heavy machinery and the curiosity of people.. Is just a recipe for disaster.”

The burden, Amanda said, lies on the city to take action and ensure a safe route to school for the children.

Trustee Elaine Young also shared her personal experience in walking by the intersection and found it to be a “horror show.”

Young is “a little resentful” that the school district had to step up and spend money on crossing guards, as it was “what they had to do.” She also believes the responsibility of pedestrian safety lies with the city and not with the school district.

“If the city doesn’t step up soon, we’ll I don’t know what will happen,” said Young.

The vice-chairperson of the SD69 board, Julie Austin, hopes the district and city are able to collaborate to provide safe routes to school, and that their proposed letter to the city is the start of that collaboration.

“If we write a letter, it (needs to) reflect that the school district is more than happy to work with the city, if they need any help with planning or input,” she said.

Trustee Laura Godfrey agreed with Austin and emphasized that SD69 follow SES PAC’s lead with addressing the city.

“Those parents have put a lot of effort into what they’re doing. I would like to make sure that we are supporting SES PAC, and go in the direction that they want to go with this.”

Trustee Barry Kurland said the school board should have been consulted with years ago before the developments had started. He said he’s ready to take an aggressive approach with the city, if necessary, and suggested the possibility of getting an injunction to shut down construction until the city addresses the safety of students and pedestrians in that area.

“I know that might sound extreme and bellicose… but they (the city) haven’t demonstrated that they were even thinking about the children in the first place,” said Kurland.

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