Traffic outside school ‘still dangerous’
The new parking rules around Merritt Central Elementary School have taken effect, but just how effective they are in increasing student safety after school is hit and miss, says principal Leroy Slanzi.
“People are still jaywalking out there,” he said. “It’s funny that the police will come and people will stop, but when the police leave, they go back to jaywalking. It’s still dangerous.”
The school now employs a crossing guard and has occasional help from Merritt RCMP Traffic Services, but once the RCMP are out of sight, some parents still jaywalk with kids and stop in no parking zones across the street. However, Slanzi said the problem is largely improved.
“I don’t think people realized we had been working with [Const. Tracy Dunsmore at the Community Policing Office] and the police were involved in terms of us setting our plan up, but it’s going a lot better for the kids,” he said, adding that there’s room for improvement.
“There are still some things we need to do in terms of barricades in the front of the fence,” he said. “Parents can still get into the parking lot.”
The school’s location on a busy road led Slanzi to designate a stretch of fence along Voght Street against the school’s field as a drop-off and pick-up zone to avoid cars coming in and leaving the parking lot while children walk across it. Slanzi said with the help of a crossing guard paid for by School District 58, students have taken quickly to the path and the rules they’re supposed to follow. Some students are also volunteering to learn how to be crossing guards.
However, Slanzi said the challenges in avoiding the traffic on Voght Street aren’t over: the school has to contend with increased traffic from the nearby mill, Tolko Industries Ltd.
“One of the issues we didn’t count on was the shift change at the mill, right at 3 o’clock,” he said. “That’s made it very congested. That’s part of the reason why we ended up getting a crossing guard out there.”