Washington police and St. Francis Borgia Grade School are going to work together to find an alternative location for children to play during recess instead of using Cedar Street.
At Friday’s meeting, the traffic commission and Borgia officials reviewed the city’s concerns with children playing on Cedar Street. The two groups agreed to meet next month to iron out plans for a safer place to relocate students during recess.
The commission has discussed the issue for the last several months. Cedar Street between Second and Third streets is closed daily during school hours by city ordinance. With the street closed, the grade school has long used the area as a playground for recess.
“Our main concern is the children being in the street as frequently as they are,” Police Officer Mike Grissom said.
The area is only blocked off by three simple barricades at each end of Cedar. The barricades have been deemed insufficient for stopping a crash and protecting the children playing in the street.
While there has never been an incident police can recall, members of the committee have voiced concern over a potential crash. Fire Chief Bill Halmich pointed to a July 2003 crash at a farmers’ market in California where 10 people were killed and 63 were injured when a man plowed through a barricade.
Grissom said he’s responded to numerous medical emergencies where the driver is incapacitated and loses control.
The committee has no issues with the road being closed and the barricades being up to protect students traveling between the two buildings. The issue is the students being outside for a sustained period of time playing in the street — something that actually is prohibited by city ordinance.
Grissom said there are options to the barricades like placing bollard short posts or using other cars as a stronger buffer. He said the bollards would be expensive and the vehicles “aren’t designed to stop other vehicles.”
Because of those factors, Grissom said he felt the easiest solution is having recess elsewhere.
Grade School Principal Linda Pahl and Father Joseph Wormek said the students safety was their No. 1 concern.
Wormek said the school does have other properties where kids could play, but they have other issues. A parking lot and field the church owns would require the students to cross Second Street and potentially Pine Street.
Emergency Management Director Mark Skornia said, while there are concerns with children crossing the street, it’s only for a short period. Grissom said if the kids have to cross the street, it may require a new crosswalk and new safety procedures that could be worked out.
Grissom asked Wormek and Pahl if the school would be open to moving recess.
“It is possible, but it would not be popular,” Pahl said. “Tradition runs deep.”
The committee said it would like the transition to take place sooner rather than later, but before it takes place Grissom said the school and city should continue conversations.
He invited Wormek and Pahl to attend the December traffic committee meeting to finalize plans for the transition. In the meantime, he said he would and city staff would work with Borgia to figure out the best, safest way to get the children out of the street.
The next traffic committee is Friday, Dec. 1, at 8 a.m. at the Public Safety Building.