More than a hundred people turned out for vigil for Vale Wolkow, a kindergartner at Lopez Elementary who was fatally struck by an SUV near the school. Miles Blumhardt, email@example.com
Poudre School District superintendent Sandra Smyser on Tuesday addressed the district’s plan to evaluate traffic safety measures one week after a Lopez Elementary School kindergartner was fatally struck by a car in front of the school.
“Last week, one of our families experienced a tragic loss of their child, Vale. As a mother, as a parent, I cannot imagine losing a child,” Smyser said at Tuesday’s school board meeting. “On behalf of everyone in PSD, I want to express our deepest condolences over the loss of their son.”
Smyser said many people have asked what will be done about road safety following the incident and their questions are “reasonable and rational.”
“We are already in the process of designing, getting professional help to survey bicycle, pedestrian and vehicle safety at each of our schools,” she said Tuesday. “(It’s) in the beginning stages: assessing intersections, parking lot traffic flow … .The purpose of our study is to get expert advice and understand how we can do better.”
On Wednesday, Smyser sent an email to all PSD parents outlining the plan.
“We will hire an outside traffic safety consultant to survey the bicycle, pedestrian, and vehicle traffic safety at each of our schools,” she wrote.
PSD has had an intergovernmental agreement with the city of Fort Collins since 2000 that helps fund crossing guards at certain intersections. It determines where paid crossing guards are placed, factoring things like traffic counts, the number of pedestrians at the crossing and speed limits. The city provides $94,350 annually, and PSD is responsible for the balance of program costs, up to $94,350, according to the agreement.
Smyser noted the district currently has 12 paid crossing guard positions, 11 of which are filled. She said a re-inventory revealed that approximately 18 staff members are also serving as crossing guards, and that 52 staff members across the district assist in safety positions.
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“In addition to this district-wide study, we are evaluating the long-standing Crossing Guard Program, which places paid crossing guards at intersections that meet criteria set forth in an agreement between PSD and the City of Fort Collins,” Smyser said in her email.
“Though plans are not yet solidified, research is underway … we will do this as quickly as possible. We need to get the help of experts in traffic flow and pedestrian flow to help us evaluate what priorities should be at this time.”
Madeline Noblett, PSD spokeswoman, said the district has not yet chosen a company to conduct the review but is looking for a company that specializes in traffic safety consulting.
Noblett said the city of Fort Collins would be involved in the process because the surveying will also include city streets.
Investigation of death ongoing
Six-year-old Vale Wolkow died Nov. 5 at Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland after being struck by a crossover SUV at the intersection of Benthaven and Wabash streets on the northwest corner of Lopez Elementary on Nov. 5.
The Fort Collins Police Services CRASH team has entered its ninth day of investigation. Spokesperson Kate Kimble said CRASH investigations usually take several weeks. Police have said they do not believe speed, alcohol or drugs were contributing factors in the crash.
The busy intersection is not normally staffed with a crossing guard, and there was not a crossing guard present the morning of Nov. 5. Many Lopez parents contacted by the Coloradoan raised concerns about the safety of the intersection.
The intersection at the elementary school where a kindergartner was fatally struck Tuesday does not have an assigned crossing guard despite heavy use. Miles Blumhardt, firstname.lastname@example.org
The same day that the crash occurred, residents within the district voted to pass a property tax increase to boost school funding. PSD estimated that $18 million would be generated annually through the increase. Of that, $2 million will go toward mental health and safety/security enhancements.
Noblett said on Wednesday that details of how the $2 million will be spent and if it would fund more crossing guards has not yet been finalized.
She did say the study would be paid for through reserve money, which is money set aside by the district for any unplanned expenses.
Both Smyser and Noblett added they are thankful for the feedback and questions from the community.
Here are the school crossings staffed (save for one of O’Dea’s, which is not) with paid crossing guards. The first number reflects the daily average number of vehicles 30 minutes before/after start/end of school. The second number is the number of students at the intersection during the same period. Numbers provided by the city are from 2015 and are the most recent numbers available.
- Bauder Elementary: 699 vehicles, 176 students
- Beattie Elementary: 609 vehicles, 35 students
- Cache la Poudre Elementary: 689 vehicles, 5 students
- Dunn Elementary: 1,536 vehicles, 158 students
- Laurel Elementary (Elizabeth Street): 454 vehicles, 34 students
- Laurel Elementary (Stover Street): 215 vehicles, 20 students
- O’Dea Elementary (Drake/Tulane): 1,768 vehicles, 13 students
- O’Dea Elementary (Drake/Stover): 1,709 vehicles, 16 students
- Olander Elementary: 232 vehicles, 89 students
- Riffenburgh Elementary: 2,272 vehicles, 13 students
- Kinard Middle School (Trilby north): 774 vehicles, 499 students
- Kinard Middle School (Trilby east): 255 vehicles, 139 students
Note: The Wabash Street intersection close to where a student was fatally struck by an SUV has an average of 875 vehicles per day, but the city does not track pedestrian numbers at the intersection.
Reporters Sady Swanson and Miles Blumhardt contributed to this story.
Brooklyn Dance is a breaking news reporter. Contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter @hibrookIyn.
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