Tuesday, 8 March 2016

ARC will have ripple effect

Like many of you, I have been watching the Accommodation Review process conducted by the Bluewater District School Board with some interest. A lot of interest, to be truthful.

I have seen these reviews come and go over the years. I think the first school closure in the city, Victoria, happened shortly after I arrived here. One of my children was part of the last class at Strathcona, when it was closed by the Accommodation Review process. Now all the schools my children have attended in Owen Sound are proposed to be closed.

When I think of these changes, I don’t just see the dollars and cents. I see the people, the kids and the community environment.

We haven’t heard all the details of the plan, but it looks like it will happen very quickly. Students will be going to new schools in the coming year or so.

But there is another factor at play here; one that is, for me, entirely self-serving. I live within a block of two of the schools which will be staying open and changed; Hillcrest and West Hill Secondary. And I am worried for student safety.

One of the things I have noticed about the traffic on my street is that at certain times of the day it is incredibly heavy. As the buses arrive, delivering students to both schools, the traffic volume increases significantly. And that can be risky for anyone out walking.

What is most risky is being a pedestrian and crossing the street. And that’s when you cross at a four way stop.

I’m not worried about the school buses. Their drivers are professional and watch out for and respect pedestrians. But it seems everyone else in Owen Sound, including city bus drivers, are completely ignorant of what a stop sign means.

In case you missed it in the Driver’s Manual or failed the driving test, a big red octagonal sign with the word STOP on it means you must come to a full, total stop. California rolling stops are not legal in this province. That seems to be completely lost on most drivers in Owen Sound. City police watch those four way stops in my neighbourhood and speak to drivers who forget their responsibilities. Business, they tell me, is good. Too good.

The impact that the accommodation review will have on the neighbourhoods around the schools affected will be significant. I trust plans will be made for the traffic changes the review results will bring.

Many years ago I conducted the funeral of a woman who had lost her husband who had been a crossing guard at the corner of 3rd Ave West and 10th St. West. He died when a car didn’t stop at the stop sign at the corner and hit him. Traffic lights were installed shortly thereafter.

I hope it won’t take the death of a child at a four way stop intersection around a local school to make a difference. And if your daily travels take you near a school, watch out. Remember, stop means stop.

Rev. David Shearman is a retired United Church minister in Owen Sound and the host of Faithworks on Rogers TV - Grey County.